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by: Jacqueline Taylor
Osteoporosis affects 200 million people worldwide, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. However, in women, it most commonly strikes following the menopause, which typically occurs between 48 and 55 years of age. Due to the decreased production of estrogen, females may suddenly experience an ankle fracture or broken hip out of the blue. Thankfully, an orthopedic surgeon can administer physical therapy to treat postmenopausal osteoporosis and prevent further fractures from presenting.
Once a woman has gone through the menopause, bone resorption happens at a much faster rate than new bone building. As a result, bone mass is lost and this puts the woman at risk of osteoporosis, breaks, and fractures. An even bigger risk is prevalent in females who experience early menopause as their bones experience a longer period of low estrogen levels and more stress. Should the menopause occur before the age of 45, it is referred to as ‘early menopause’. These women should be particularly cautious about the activities they participate in and seek assistance from a physical therapist as early as is practically possible.
Strengthening the bones
Despite females acquiring 85-90% of their bone mass by the age of 18, it is possible for women to build and maintain their bone mass during and after the menopause. A physical therapist will provide patients with a tailor-made exercise plan, which is based on their age, current fitness and risk. This plan should, in most cases, be followed two to three times a week in order to improve the condition of the bones. Typically, both resistance and weight-bearing exercises will need to be performed. Examples of suitable resistance exercises for postmenopausal women include using exercise bands and lifting light weights. Meanwhile, dancing and low-impact aerobic classes for the over 50’s can be enjoyed as weight-bearing exercises.
During physical therapy treatment, a therapist will show his or her patient how to make changes in their day to day life to reduce the impact that their osteoporosis has on them. In most cases, these changes will be minimal but they can make the difference between an injury transpiring or not. Typical changes will include:
- Learning how to lift and pick up objects without using the back
- Discovering how to maneuver out of bed or from a chair without twisting the spine
- Identifying when to ask for assistance
- Using aids to carry shopping and similar objects from one destination to another
Improved quality of life
Research has shown that patients with osteoporosis have a better quality of life when they undertake physical therapy. Bergland et al’s study of women with osteoporosis aged between 60 and 84 years of age, concluded that circuit training had a positive impact on both mobility and quality of life. This can only be a good thing seeing as Whiteley et al’s study on menopause described it as a ‘humanistic and economic burden’ for women due to the 34 possible symptoms it can cause.
Physical therapy is an effective treatment for postmenopausal women dealing with osteoporosis. A qualified therapist will use this therapy to prevent future problems and aid the recovery of existing ones. As a result, postmenopausal women can enjoy life to the full without worry.
International Osteoporosis Foundation – Facts & Statistics https://www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-statistics
National Osteoporosis Foundation – Osteoporosis Fast Facts https://cdn.nof.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Osteoporosis-Fast-Facts.pdf
The Whoot – 34 Menopause Symptoms To Know https://thewhoot.com/newsletter/hot-flash-remedies
Allcareptc – Osteoporosis and Physical Therapy https://allcareptc.com/publications/fighting-osteoporosis-through-physical-therapy/
National Center for Biotechnology Information – Effects Of Physical Therapy On Quality Of Life In Osteoporosis Patients – A Randomized Clinical Trial https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3511275/National Center for Biotechnology Information – The Impact Of Menopausal Symptoms On Quality Of Life, Productivity, And Economic Outcomes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3820128/
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