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What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is a disease in which there is a loss of bone mass and destruction of bone tissue. This process causes weakening of the bones and makes them more likely to break. The bones most often affected are the hips, spine, and wrists.

Who is affected by osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis affects over 10 million Americans, with women four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. Another 34 million have low bone mass and therefore have an increased risk for osteoporosis. Estrogen deficiency is one of the main causes of bone loss in women during and after menopause. Women may lose up to 20 percent of their bone mass in the five to seven years following menopause.

Other risk factors for osteoporosis:

Although the exact medical cause for osteoporosis is unknown, a number of factors contribute to osteoporosis, including the following:

  • aging
    Bones become less dense and weaker with age.
  • race
    Caucasian and Asian women are most at risk, although all races may develop the disease.
  • body weight and bone structure
    People who weigh less and have small body frames are more at risk for developing osteoporosis.
  • lifestyle factors:
    The following lifestyle factors may increase a person's risk of osteoporosis:
    • physical inactivity
    • caffeine
    • excessive alcohol use
    • smoking
    • dietary calcium and vitamin D deficiency
  • certain medications
  • family history of bone disease

What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is often called the "silent disease" because persons with osteoporosis may not develop any symptoms. Some may have pain in their bones and muscles, particularly in their back. Occasionally, a collapsed vertebrae may cause severe pain, decrease in height, or deformity in the spine.

Rehabilitation for osteoporosis:

An osteoporosis rehabilitation program is designed to meet the needs of the individual patient, depending upon the type and severity of the disease. Active involvement of the patient and family is vital to the success of the program.

The goal of rehabilitation is to help the patient to return to the highest level of function and independence possible, while improving the overall quality of life - physically, emotionally, and socially. The focus of rehabilitation is to decrease pain, help prevent fractures, and minimize further bone loss.

In order to help reach these goals, osteoporosis rehabilitation programs may include the following:

  • exercise programs and conditioning to increase weight bearing and physical fitness
  • pain management techniques
  • nutritional counseling to improve calcium and vitamin D intake and decrease caffeine and alcohol intake
  • use of assistive devices to improve safety at home
  • patient and family education, especially prevention of falls

The osteoporosis rehabilitation team:

Osteoporosis rehabilitation programs can be conducted on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Many skilled professionals are part of the osteoporosis rehabilitation team, including any/all of the following:

  • orthopaedist/orthopaedic surgeon
  • physiatrist
  • internist
  • rehabilitation nurse
  • dietitian
  • physical therapist
  • occupational therapist
  • social worker
  • psychologist/psychiatrist
  • recreational therapist
  • chaplain
  • vocational therapist