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How to Use Physical Therapy for Osteoporosis

  Osteoporosis is a metabolic bone disease. This chronic condition results in weakened bone mass and fragility, often leading to bone fractures. Approximately 80 percent of osteoporosis patients are women over 50; however, this disease can affect men and women of any age. Many fractures occur in the spine, wrist and hips as a result of falling. Many people with osteoporosis become afraid to pursue physical activity. The risk of imbalance, falling and fracture can be lowered by using physical therapy as a treatment for osteoporosis. Physical therapy is also used to relieve pain and regain mobility after a fracture. Learn how to use physical therapy for osteoporosis.


  1. Visit your doctor to discuss physical therapy options. Physical therapy is used in conjunction with medication, braces or aides and regular tests. If you recently fractured a bone, your doctor may want you to wait 6 weeks, until you are in the sub-acute phase of your injury.

  If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, but you have not yet fractured a bone, you may need to approach your doctor about using physical therapy as a preventative measure. The physical therapist can teach you to move, exercise and even fall in a way that prevents serious and painful bone fractures.

  2. Choose a physical therapist that specializes in osteoporosis. The treatment regime for people who have lost bone mass is different from physical therapy used to treat other injuries. Ask your doctor for a list of specialized therapists.

  3. Schedule an evaluation appointment with a physical therapist. During this appointment, they will test your body mechanics, your physical fitness and your pain levels. The therapist will prescribe a treatment program that could include up to 3 sessions per week for 6 months.

  Talk to your therapist about how many appointments your health insurance will cover. In some cases, you can begin doing some sessions at a health care facility or gym. You may need to pay out of pocket to finish the recommended physical therapy program

  4. Learn proper posture. Because of the risk of spinal fracture, proper posture is essential to retaining mobility. Changing your posture is not always easy, and it may include exercises to strengthen muscles, braces or supports and vigilance on your par.

  5. Change your body mechanics to fit your condition. For most people this means learning to lift properly, learning fall prevention, learning to avoid twisting your spine and asking for help with situations that could cause fractures (such as lifting or reaching). Your physical therapist will lead you through new movements that you can practice at home.

  6. Do balance exercises. Exercises that teach you to walk steadily or balance on 1 foot help you to avoid future falls. You may also be asked to do some light stretching, because this helps to increase range of motion in your joints and prevent falls.

  7. Begin weight-bearing exercises. This is any low-impact aerobic activity that requires you to move yourself around. Regular walking, dancing, elliptical and stair stepping machines all help to slow down mineral loss in your bones.

  8. Start a strength-training routine. Under supervision by a physical therapist, do repetitive motions with small weights, resistance bands or weight machines in order to strengthen the muscles in your back and other parts of your body. Strength-training will increase the strength of the postural muscles and help you to avoid compression fractures, and stooping, along your spinal column.

  In healthy bodies, strength-training can increase bone density. In osteoporosis patients, exercises with weight or resistance help you to maintain your current bone mass and avoid future loss of bone density.

  9. Begin your own preventative exercise routine at home, after 1 to 6 months of physical therapy. This should include weight-bearing, strength-training and balance exercise almost every day. Regular, careful physical activity should be taken as seriously as taking an osteoporosis medication.

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