in Wellness

What is osteoporosis and who can get it?

Osteoporosis is a medical condition that affects the inside of your bones making them fragile and at risk of injury (Irish Osteoporosis Society, 2021). Although the interior of the bone is affected, there are no symptoms of osteoporosis and it may not be identified until a bone has been broken. Some common signs are loss of height, back pain and unexplained broken bones. Although women over 65 are 4 times more at risk of developing this condition, both men and children can also be affected. In addition to this, athletes who over train and those with eating disorders are more at risk. Some other risk factors include weight, some cancer treatments, steroid use and family history to name a few.

Why are women more at risk?

There are several reasons why women are more at risk of developing osteoporosis than men and hormonal changes tend to play a large role. Up to 30% of bone mineral density can be lost during the menopause.

How can I tell if I have Osteoporosis?

A DXA scan is a simple scan, similar to an x-ray that will measure a person's bone mineral density. A DXA scan can also identify osteopenia. If your bone mineral density is low, it is recommended to get a blood test as this can help to identify the reason for your bone loss. Calcium and Vitamin D play a large role in good bone health and a deficiency in either can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.

What is osteopenia?

Osteopenia is diagnosed when a person’s bone mineral density is reduced but not at a level that would be low enough to be diagnosed as osteoporosis. It is common for osteopenia to develop into osteoporosis. If you have been diagnosed with osteopenia you should speak to a professional who will guide you and provide information on ways to improve your bone health and put preventative measures in place to ensure that your condition is managed optimally.

The role of exercise in osteoporosis

There is a large bone of evidence (no pun intended!) to suggest that exercise plays a significant role in the management of osteoporosis and can reduce the occurrence in high risk groups. Strength training, including weights, has been shown to be the most effective form of exercise, increasing bone mineral density and bone stiffness acting as a barrier to the development of osteoporosis. If you fall into the high risk group or have a diagnosis of either osteopenia or osteoporosis, you should speak to a trained professional who will guide you in developing an exercise regime to meet your needs. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring or unenjoyable so find something you love to do and work with your trainer to incorporate this into your weekly routine (2).

  1. Irish Osteoporosis Society . Available: https://www.irishosteoporosis.ie/information-support/factsheets/. Last accessed 28 May 2021.
  2. Senderovich H, Kosmopoulos A. An Insight into the Effect of Exercises on the Prevention of Osteoporosis and Associated Fractures in High-risk Individuals. Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal. 2018;9(1):e0005.

Sinead Coyle - Chartered Physiotherapist