Osteopathy Journals and Research by Darren Chandler


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  1. Content

    • What is osteoporosis
    • Osteoporosis risk factors
    • What can osteopathic manipulative treatment do?

    What is Osteoporosis

    Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It is often a ‘silent condition’, giving no pain or other symptoms until the worst happens and a bone breaks most commonly in the wrist, hip and spine. 

    In the UK, one in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 will fracture a bone, mainly due to poor bone health. Although an illness typically associated with postmenopausal women men are four times more likely to get osteoporosis than prostate cancer.

    It’s quite normal for bone loss to occur between 20 and 40. It’s a good idea to make a few healthy lifestyle choices outlined in our previous blog on osteoporosis as early as possible to help prevent problems later in life.

    Osteoporosis risk factors

    There are several factors generally accepted to be risk factors in osteoporosis and related fractures. These include:

    • Genetics: Check your family history.
    • Gender: Osteoporosis is not exclusively a female disease but it is more prevalent in women.
    • Age: The older you are the higher the risk. Bone loss starts between 20 and 40 but increases in later life.
    • Body weight: You need to carry a bit of weight! Those with a body mass index less than 19kg/m sqd are more likely to get osteoporosis.
    • Previous fracture: If you have sustained a previous fracture either spontaneously or from a trauma, which, in a healthy individual, would not normally result in a fracture then there’s more risk of it happening again.
    • Alcohol: The NHS advise there is no safe level of alchol consumption but to not exceed 14 units a week. 3+ units a day increases your likelihood of developing osteoporosis.
    • Smoking: Smoking increases your chance of osteoporosis.
    • Steroids (glucocorticoids): If you’ve been taking a daily dose of 5+mg prednisolone for more than 3 months there is a risk of developing osteoporosis. Do not come off your medication consult with your GP.
    • Other illnesses: Illnesses associated with osteoporosis are: rheumatoid arthritis (not ‘wear and tear’ osteoarthritis), bone cancer, multiple myeloma, Cushing’s disease, type I diabetes, osteogenesis imperfecta in adults, untreated long-standing hyperthyroidism, hypogonadism or premature menopause (before 45), chronic malnutrition, or malabsorption and chronic liver disease.

    If you think you maybe, or are not sure if you are at risk from osteoporosis you should consult your GP.

    What can osteopathic manipulative treatment do?

    If you’re worried your pain could be due to osteoporosis consult with your osteopath. A thorough case history and examination will let your osteopath know if it’s a simple soft tissue injury or if there’s a need to refer to your GP for a second opinion. Osteopaths are trained to give lifestyle advise on exercise to help improve balance and bone strength.

  2. What is osteoporosis and what can you do

    Osteoporosis is a condition that makes bones more brittle and prone to breaking (fracture). Although osteoporosis can effect men and younger people, post-menopausal women are most at risk. One of the best ways to help maintain healthy bones is to exercise regularly – which encourages the bones to absorb calcium and other mineral salts that keep bones strong.

    Weight bearing exercises and weight resisted exercises are best for strengthening bones and muscles and as well as helping to keep bones in good health may also reduce the likelihood of falls as you age. Weight bearing exercises are those where your body is supporting its own weight, such as walking or housework or carrying groceries. Weight resisted exercise involves pushing or pulling against an additional weight, like a dumbbell or barbell or resistance equipment in a gym. Engaging in activities that are too high intensity or involve too much impact can cause injury and fractures to the bone.

    The younger you start lifting weights the better

    Any one can benefit from weight training but it has been demonstrated that younger women who trained using weights have stronger bones later in life, this essentially means that you can lay down extra bone when you’re younger to help prevent fractures later in life – a kind of insurance scheme for your body. A life time of active living not only protects your bones but also keeps your heart healthy and may protect you from other diseases such as cancer and type two diabetes.

    But starting exercise at any age will help

    Everyone can benefit from increasing their activity levels. Studies have shown that people who have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis can improve their bone health significantly through weight bearing exercising, the key is getting good advice on how to move well and how to self-manage.

    Some more benefits of lifting weights

    Strong muscles burn more calories, so if you need to control your bodyweight, lifting weights can help. It also helps with balance and can help you to regulate your sleep patterns.

    ‘I don’t want to look muscled’

    It takes women a lot of heavy weight lifting, and sometimes the use of controlled substances like steroids and hormones, to achieve the physique of the heavily muscled power lifter. Women don’t normally have enough testosterone in their bodies to develop bulging muscles, but can, with regular, moderate training achieve lean, toned and strong muscles.

    ‘I hate gyms’

    No problem. There are plenty of other exercises you can do that don’t involve a visit to the gym. Dancing, yoga, tennis, pilates, walking, running, gardening and even housework count – all you are aiming to do is increase your heart rate and make yourself feel a little warmer. You can do it in several short blocks of 15 minutes or more but aim for at least a total of 150 minutes per week over at least 5 days per week for the best results. If you’re unused to exercise, start slowly and build up to this target.

    I don’t know where to start - can osteopathy help?

    This is where your friendly local osteopath can help. They can screen you for any health concerns that might affect your ability to exercise, help to resolve any injuries or pain that might be holding you back and advise you on what exercises might suit your goals best. Many can teach you how to exercise correctly, avoiding injuries and how to gradually build up as your ability and fitness levels improve.

    Further tips

    • Diet: your diet should include vitamin D and calcium. Don’t consume too much of anyone nutrient, especially if taking supplements. Try and get the nutrients from a variety of different food sources and of course vitamin D from some safe sun exposure!
    • Avoid prolonged bed rest: being weight bearing strengthens the bones.
    • Be aware of trip hazards and improving balance: Tai Chi classes or specific balance exercises can reduce the risk of falling.
    • Stop smoking: smoking has a toxic effect on the cells that help build bone.
    • Limit alcohol intake: no more than 3 units a day. 
    • Body weight: you need to be carrying a bit of weight! Those with a body mass index LESS than 19kg/m sqd are more likely to get osteoporosis.