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Osteoporosis and Prevention

What Is Osteoporosis:

Osteoporosis is a common bone disease characterized by low bone density (thickness of the bone), decreased bone strength, and a change in the bone structure, which can lead to an increased risk of fracture. The normal bone structure becomes thinned out and porous, lessening the ability of the bone to withstand the typical forces that are applied in everyday living. Fractures from osteoporosis and low bone density can be serious, causing pain and affecting your quality of life.

Why It’s Important:

One in 4 women will develop osteoporosis in her lifetime. A woman’s risk of having an osteoporosis-related hip fracture is greater than her risk of developing breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer combined. (National Osteoporosis Foundation)


Who Is At Risk:

Postmenopausal women ages 45-55 have the highest risk, due to a decrease in estrogen are at risk for the weakening of bones. However, it can also occur in men and in children, often due to diseases that affect bone development, such as Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, or kidney disease. Some medicines, such as steroids, may increase your risk for developing osteoporosis. Athletes who are underweight during the time of peak bone development are also susceptible. Other risks include:

  • A small thin frame
  • Alcoholism
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Family History
  • Low calcium intake
  • Predisposing medical conditions
  • Controllable Risks
    • Cigarette smoking
    • Excessive alcohol intake
    • Inactive lifestyle
    • Excessive caffeine intake
    • Lack of weight-bearing exercise
    • Poor health
    • Low weight
    • Calcium-poor diet
    • Low vitamin D levels

Wrist and Hip Fractures:

A panel of experts judged that skeletal fragility might be responsible for 80–95 percent of hip and spine fractures in women, depending on age, along with 70–80 percent of distal forearm fractures and 45–60 percent of fractures at other skeletal sites (Melton et al. 1997).

How Common Is It:

Roughly 40% of women 50 or older in the US will experience a hip, spine or wrist fracture during their life.(National Osteoporosis Foundation)

Roughly one in four (24 percent) women age 50 or older fall each year, compared to nearly half (48 percent) of women age 85 or older; comparable figures for men are 16 percent and 35 percent (Winner et al. 1989).


While no one can guarantee any preventative action will be 100% successful, it sure doesn’t hurt! So what can you do? After being cleared by a Medical Professional, try:


  • It is recommended that you walk 45 minutes a day at least 4 days a week

Balance Training

  • 1 legged standing for one minute is equivalent to the amount of integral load gained through walking for approximately 53 minutes.(Sakamoto, 2006)

Body Weight Training

  • 12 weeks of squatting 3 times a week improved skeletal properties in postmenopausal women with osteopenia or osteoporosis. (Mosti,2013)

How It Is Diagnosed:

Osteoporosis is best diagnosed through a quick and painless specialized x-ray called the DXA, which measures bone density. The results are reported using T-scores and Z-scores.

  • The T-score compares your score to that of healthy 30-year-old adults. If you have a T-score of -1 or less, you have a greater risk of having a fracture.
  • The Z-score compares your bone mineral density to those of the same sex, weight, and age. It is used for those whose bone mass has not yet peaked, premenopausal women, and men older than 50.

Other methods of measuring bone density include x-ray, ultrasound, and CT scan.

Osteoporosis and Osteopenia:

Osteoporosis and Osteopenia are a result of a  decrease in bone density. Osteopenia is a less severe form of osteoporosis. See graphic below.



How a Physical Therapist Can Help:

Your physical therapist can develop a specific program based on your individual needs to help improve your overall bone health, keep your bones healthy, and help you avoid fracture. Your physical therapist may teach you:

  • Specific exercises to build bone or decrease the amount of bone loss
  • Proper posture
  • How to improve your balance so as to reduce your risk of falling
  • How to adjust your environment to protect your bone health

Healthy bone is built and maintained through a healthy lifestyle. Your physical therapist will teach specific exercises to meet your particular needs.

The exercise component for bone building or slowing bone loss is very specific and similar for all ages. Bone grows when it is sufficiently and properly stressed, just as a muscle grows when challenged by more than usual weight. Two types of exercise are optimal for bone health, weight-bearing and resistance.

It is best for a physical therapist to provide your individual bone-building prescription to ensure that you are neither over- or under-exercising. Typically, exercises are performed 2 to 3 times a week as part of an overall fitness program.


If you or anyone you know is suffering from Osteoporosis, feel free to give us a call and schedule an Initial Examination with our world class Physical Therapists.


This post was originally written by a SportsCare Physical Therapist, Greg DeMarco PT, DPT, ATC, PES, TPI, and has been updated with additional information given by SportsCare Insitute Social Media Management.

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