Osteoporosis is a condition where loss of bone mass causes bones to become weak and brittle, so that a fall or even mild stresses like coughing or bending over can cause a fracture. Approximately 1.4 million Canadians are affected by osteoporosis and low bone mass.

The condition is much more prevalent in women. Sixteen percent of women age 50 and older are affected by osteoporosis of the femur and neck or lumbar spine, compared to 4% of men in the same age group. Menopause is known to contribute to the development of osteoporosis in older women.

The best way to screen for low bone density is to take a bone density test called bone densitometry.  This test can diagnose osteoporosis as well as indicate how likely you are to develop it in the future.

The first sign of osteoporosis is usually unassociated pain from a fracture. Other symptoms include back pain, bone pain or tenderness, loss of height, increased kyphosis (round of the back) and lack of mobility. It is important for all people over 50 to consult with their doctor on their risk of developing the osteoporosis before a fracture occurs. Some medications prescribed for other conditions may contribute to loss of bone mass. Vitamin D and calcium are important in preventing osteoporosis, as is regular, as is regular exercise.

People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are particularly susceptible to developing osteoporosis because some of the common treatments for RA like steroids, as cortisone and prednisone, increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. Other conditions have been determined to contribute to the development of condition, including lupus, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease and diabetes. Excessive use of alcohol, lack of exercise and smoking also contribute to developing osteoporosis.

Physiotherapy can reduce the likelihood that osteoporosis will occur. This treatment typically involves a series of exercises specifically designed by a physiotherapist for each individual patient. These exercises include weight-bearing activities, such as walking or jogging, and resistance training, such as light weight lifting to strengthen bones.

Another common component of physiotherapy treatment for preventing osteoporosis is developing better control of balance to help prevent falls and improving posture to take stress off the spine and prevent fractures. The goal with posture exercises is to align the body from head to toe with weight being borne in the hips.

Also, a physiotherapist will recommend changes in the home and office to complement your prevention program, as well as changes in daily activities, such as proper reclining posture (lying down) and how to sneeze properly, that will help avoid fractures.

So when it comes to osteoporosis, the best defense is awareness of the factors that contribute to the risk of developing the condition, followed by consultation with your doctor and a program or exercises and lifestyle changes designed by a licensed physiotherapist to help prevent the development of osteoporosis.




Prevalence of osteoporosis



In men and women 50 or older


Related disorders:


How Does PhysiotherapyHelp Osteoporosis?


Brigham and Women’s treatment and research


Details on PT treatment:


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