How to Build Strength if You Have Osteoporosis
If you have osteoporosis, you can learn to exercise safely with the help of a program devised by a physical or occupational therapist, and include foods in your diet to reduce the risk of a fracture.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones that can lead to loss of height, back and neck pain, and ultimately, fracture. Literally osteoporosis means porous bones, and is a silent disease that starts in childhood and reveals itself in adulthood. It doesn't show up with a blood test or an obvious bump, bruise or pain. You may not even know you have osteoporosis or low bone density until you break a bone.
Making Smart Choices
Although osteoporosis is not reversible, you can make good diet and exercise choices to take care of your bones and reduce the risk of a fracture:
- A diet of fruits and vegetables along with adequate amounts of calcium and Vitamin D (which helps your body absorb calcium) help to keep our “bone bank” full. Good choices include milk and low-fat dairy products, a variety of seafood, dark, leafy vegetables, and calcium-fortified foods like breads and orange juice.
- Exercise helps to keep our muscles strong to support our boney framework and helps to keep bones dense.
Having osteoporosis or low bone density doesn't mean you should not exercise. A physical therapist or occupational therapist can offer you the appropriate support and supervision and devise a comprehensive program to provide you with safe and effective exercise.
Exercise Tips if You Have Osteoporosis:
- During any exercise program, make sure your back is stabilized with positioning and support to effectively maintain the normal curves of the spine.
- Avoid exercise positions that twist, forward bend, side bend, or are high impact as these can create increased stress on your spine to the weakened bones leading to a fracture.
- Warm up by walking or using a treadmill instead of using a stationary bicycle. The bicycle's sitting position puts the most compression through your vertebrae.
- Stretch before you do any weight lifting or weight training. If you don’t have time to warm up, you don't have time to work out.
And if you have children in your life, you can help them to good bone health as adults by making sure they have good nutrition and get exercise in their growing years.
Are you at risk for osteoporosis? Your physician may recommend a DXA scan to help determine your risk of having a fracture.
Kirsten Ditzler, DPT, CLT-LANA, CWS
Kirsten Ditzler, DPT, CLT-LANA, CWS, is a physical therapist at the Lancaster General Health Women’s Specialty Center.
Education: A graduate of Quinnipiac University, Ditzler received her doctorate in physical therapy from Temple University. Her areas of interest include women’s health, osteoporosis treatment, lymphedema management, and wound care.