Developing osteoporosis in old age is far from an inevitability, but for those that do, life need not be drastically changed by its presence. With a combination of the right medications, a healthy lifestyle, and physiotherapy, elderly sufferers can retain their physical mobility and independence. Physiotherapy in particular can also be remarkably helpful for sufferers who end up suffering the dreaded hip and vertebral fractures that many assume means an end to unassisted living.
How does physiotherapy help prevent bone damage and fractures caused by osteoporosis?
Staying active and exercising regularly is one of the most effective ways of preventing bone damage for osteoporosis sufferers -- exercising muscles naturally strengthens them, but it also strengthens the tendons and ligaments that bond muscles to the bones. This, in turn, provokes increased tissue growth to strengthen your bones, forming an effective countermeasure against the weakening effects of osteoporosis.
However, because some bones may already be quite fragile by the time osteoporosis is diagnosed and treatment can begin, it's important that these exercises are guided and that a routine is developed that does not put undue strain or pressure on weakened bones. Professional physiotherapy sessions, either one-to-one or in groups, is generally the best option for preventing injury.
What do physiotherapy routines for osteoporosis sufferers involve?
Every physiotherapy course begins with an individual assessment session, where the therapists can assess your needs and which exercises you might or might not be able to do safely. These exercises can take any number of forms, from walking to jazz dancing, but will generally fall into one of three two categories:
- Weight-bearing exercises - these exercises are intended to strengthen the muscles, which helps keeps bones aligned and properly cushioned against pressure and injury. They can also help to correct posture, which may become poor and stooped due to weakening of the vertebrae. Weight-bearing exercises can involve traditional weight lifting, body weight exercises such as yoga, or resistance training on exercise machines -- whatever feels best for you.
- Endurance exercises - these exercises increase your general physical fitness but also work to strengthen the bonds between bone and muscle. They also help sufferers carry on with their everyday routines without becoming tired, and can help to decrease chronic pain caused by bone weakness. These generally take the form of cardiovascular exercises such as walking, jogging and sports. Swimming, water polo and water aerobics are a popular choice, as the resistance of the water decreases impact on the bones and joints.