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How Physiotherapy can help treat osteoporosis

How Physiotherapy can help treat osteoporosis


Osteoporosis is a progressive disease causing weakening of the bones. If not identified and left untreated, it will get worse. Osteoporosis is more common in older females. This is because bone loss increases after menopause due to lower oestrogen levels. This increases the risk of fractures with falls. Also as a result of poor postures, rotational and flexion type movements. Bones most commonly fractured are bones of the wrist, arm, spine and hip.

Bone strength is normally assessed by measuring bone density using a DEXA scan. This information can help predict the future risk of fracture. A score below -2.5 is defined as osteoporosis.

Physiotherapy has been shown to be effective in the treatment and management of osteoporosis, by strengthening bones and muscles, improving balance and posture and assisting in pain management strategies.

Physiotherapy for Osteoporosis

Although many people with osteoporosis are fearful of exercising and doing strength training, lower impact exercise and lifting weights can in fact increase bone strength and therefore decrease the risk of fracture. This is achieved through the principals of overload. For any physiological system to improve its function it must be exposed to a load larger than normal. For strong bones, it means that the skeleton must encounter forces greater than those it sustains on a day to day basis. An appropriate exercise program designed by your physiotherapist, that gently strengthens muscles and bones will improve overall strength and stability, therefore reduces the risk of falls and fall-related fractures.

Physiotherapy also helps in reducing falls risk through balance and co-ordination exercises. There exercises help improve balance when walking on unstable surfaces, when walking around through narrow spaces or around hazards, and help patients maintain their balance when challenged by external stimuli.

Physiotherapists also aim to improve overall posture through strengthening and gentle range of motion exercises. Poor posture, in particular increased flexion through the thoracic spine can lead to gradual fractures of the thoracic vertebra and wedging of these vertebra. Exercises which improve core and upper back strength, help stop and prevent progression of this type of posture.

There is no single exercise regimen that’s best for everyone with osteoporosis.

Each regimen should be specifically tailored to the individual patient based on a medical evaluation of:

  • Fracture risk
  • Muscle strength
  • Range of motion
  • Level of physical activity
  • Fitness
  • Gait
  • Balance

Physiotherapists have specialist skills in assessment and re-enablement and provide evidence based exercise, education and advice programmes aimed to prevent falls, improve balance, increase self confidence, reduce fear of falling and promote active and healthy lifestyles.

If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or are at risk of developing osteoporosis, contact us here for an assessment with one of our physiotherapists.



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