More than 3 million people in the UK are estimated to have osteoporosis, a condition where bones lose their strength to the extent that they are more likely to break as a result of a minor bump or fall.
The wrists, hips and spine are most commonly affected with osteoporosis accounting for 500,000 broken bones every year in the UK – that’s one every minute.
It is often referred to as “the silent disease” because the bones weaken gradually over time and without symptoms so that many people are not aware they have osteoporosis until a minor incident causes a break.
As a physiotherapist specialising in musculoskeletal conditions I regularly found myself working with clients who had been diagnosed with osteoporosis. In many cases, due to a lack of consistent information, they had curtailed longed-for exercise and activities – restricting both their function and enjoyment – based on a theoretical increased risk of a vertebral (spinal) fracture.
Their main concerns were about everyday matters:
- Can I carry my shopping?
- Lift my dog into the car?
- Bend over to put my socks on? (How can I do this without bending?)
- Go jogging?
Mostly they had been warned against forward bending, high-impact exercise – often interpreted as anything more than brisk walking – and lifting weights.
Even amongst health professionals, there was a lack of consensus regarding the role of physical activity and exercise for bone strength and perhaps most importantly, regarding safety issues for exercising with osteoporosis and vertebral fractures.
At best I lacked confidence in the information I provided my patients and at worst, felt my advice could only be described as woolly!
Very welcome then is a new document published by the National Osteoporosis Society this month. Entitled Strong, Steady and Straight it is downloadable from their website and written for allied health professionals, physiotherapists and other exercise professionals – including yoga teachers 🙂
The document is structured around 3 themes addressing physical activity and exercise for osteoporosis.STRONG
Outlines the type, intensity – including duration and frequency/amount of – physical activity and exercise needed to promote bone strength.
Describes the importance of physical activity and exercise to reduce falls and resulting fractures.
Focuses on spine care – keeping the back straight – in a positive approach to bending, lifting and moving safely in order to reduce the risk of vertebral fracture associated with day-to-day activities. It also includes advice on developing muscle strength to improve posture and relieve pain after vertebral fractures.
Under each theme, there are recommendations for dealing with these groups:
- ALL people with osteoporosis
- People with vertebral fractures
- Those who are frail and unsteady and at risk of fall falls
The document has been put together by a panel of experts and while they agree that more research is yet required, where evidence was insufficient or conflicting they came to a consensus based on potential benefits and the key principles derived from other national statements, in order to make their recommendations.
This is good news for those of us who are working with the at-risk and vulnerable populations and goes a long way to giving us the reassurance we need to feel that we are operating under “best practice” guidelines.
For further information and document download, visit