older woman with a blue shirt on lighting small weights during physical therapy appointment

Osteopenia & Osteoporosis

The structural deterioration of bone tissue in osteopenia, and osteoporosis can lead to an increased risk of fracture with aging–but physical therapy can help.

Physical therapy for osteopenia and osteoporosis

According to the National Institute of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Disease Resource Center, over 40 million people are diagnosed with osteoporosis or are at high risk due to low bone density each year. In addition, approximately one in two women and one in four men, age fifty and older, will suffer from a fracture related to osteoporosis.

A comprehensive physical therapy program can help prevent fractures and falls and introduce beneficial assistive devices.

Causes of osteopenia and osteoporosis

The most significant underlying cause of osteoporosis is less than optimal bone growth during childhood and adolescence, which never obtains full potential for peak bone mass. Causes of osteoporosis later in life can be from bone loss due to a greater than expected rate of bone resorption or a decreased rate of bone formation, or both.

old woman with white hair balancing on one foot

Risk factors of osteopenia and osteoporosis include:

  • Gender: women lose bone mass faster due to changes with menopause (decreased estrogen leads to bone loss)
  • Age: bones inevitably become thinner and weaker as we age
  • Body Size: petite framed women are more at risk
  • Ethnicity: Caucasian and Asian women are at the highest risk
  • Family History: genetic factors may determine as much as 50-90% of bone mass
  • Sex Hormones: absence of menstrual periods, low estrogen and testosterone
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Poor Calcium and Vitamin D intake
  • Medication Use: long-term steroids, anticonvulsants, and cancer chemotherapy drugs
  • Lifestyle: inactivity increases risk, as well as cigarette smoking and alcohol intake
female physical therapist helping old male patient with feet exercises

Osteoporosis & osteopenia symptoms

Often referred to as a “silent disease”, early stages of osteoporosis may show no symptoms. Eventually, patients with osteoporosis may experience the following symptoms:

  • Bone fractures
  • Back pain
  • Loss of height
  • Stooped or hunched posture
male physical therapist helping older man with ankle and feet exercises

How we treat osteopenia and osteoporosis

Comprehensive medical treatment can include proper nutrition, exercise, safety education for fall prevention, and appropriate therapeutic medications. Physical therapy can help strengthen bones and prevent fractures by assisting patients with fall prevention – patients will begin a regular exercise program to strengthen muscles and improve balance under the supervision of a physical therapist. Osteopenia and osteoporosis treatments may include:

  • Low impact weight-bearing exercises
  • Resistance exercises, such as lifting weights
  • Movement modification instruction to avoid movements that may place excess stress on the spine
  • Flexibility exercises to help counteract the typical postural deviations that occur with age
  • Balance training to help decrease fall risk.

Osteoporosis resources

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What to expect

Your first physical therapy appointment is about creating a personalized treatment plan based on your health history, diagnosis, and goals. Here’s what you can expect at your first physical therapy appointment:

Your first appointment will last about an hour. Please arrive 15 minutes early.

If applicable, bring your physician referral or prescription, insurance card, paperwork, ID, and co-payment.

At your appointment, we’ll do an initial evaluation and discuss your care plan.

*Services are not available at every location. Visit our Locations page for more details.