What is Osteoporosis?

Published: May 28, 2015

Osteoporosis is a common disease that causes thinning and weakening of the bones. It is characterized by low bone density (thickness), decreased bone strength, and structural deterioration of bone tissue. The bone becomes thinned out and porous, decreasing the ability of bone to withstand typical forces that are applied in everyday living.

Osteoporosis can affect people of any age. However, 80% of people with osteoporosis are female and 55% of people 50 or older have it. It is also more common in people that have celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, or kidney disease. Non-controllable risk factors for osteoporosis include being female, having a small frame, advanced age, hormone levels and genetics. There are also controllable risk factors for osteoporosis including cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol intake, an inactive lifestyle, lack of weight-bearing exercise, certain medications (steroids, heparin), poor health, low weight, calcium-poor diet, and low Vitamin D levels. Osteoporosis is best diagnosed with a painless specialized x-ray called DXA.

People with osteoporosis can develop a stooped posture and loss of height. Osteoporosis is responsible for 1.5 million fractures a year, including 300,000 hip fractures, 700,000 vertebral fractures, 250,000 wrist fractures and 300,000 other fractures.

If you have osteoporosis, rehabilitation can help you stay healthy and decrease the risk of fractures. A therapist can teach you proper posture and strengthen the muscles that maintain posture. They can help improve your balance to reduce your risk of falls and thereby decrease risk of fractures. Education will be included on movements such as twisting that can cause spinal fracture. Therapists can also make suggestions to adjust your environment to protect you from falls.

The therapy staff on the campus of Passavant Community can help you manage your osteoporosis. They are available on an outpatient basis by calling (724) 452-3492 or via home health services at (877) 862-6659.


Adapted from APTA patient education article “Physical Therapist’s Guide to Osteoporosis.”

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