One big part of the “therapy” is exercise. It helps strengthen muscles and fibers around the bones and minimizes the chronic pain that osteoporosis often brings.
“What’s interesting is that the pain from osteoporosis is often more severe when the patient can’t exercise,” said Dr. Fatemi.
So it’s a vicious cycle.
If you don’t exercise, the pain get worse, but the pain makes it difficult to exercise.
That brought us to physical trainer Nathaniel Frost of Northridge, CA. His clients include women over 55 years old whose risk for osteoporosis increases as they age.
“We like to stress exercise that will increase strength and balance,” says Frost, who adds that weight bearing exercise, like walking and hiking, are great ways to get started because they help stimulate muscle growth to support bones and joints.
“If a person can do it, we will recommend light free weights because you can control the range of motion as well as maintaining control of your posture,” said Frost.
You might be thinking Frost is talking about heavy barbells. But the weights can be as light as one or two pounds — the idea is to create some resistance.
“Overall weight lifting does not need to be heavy, just enough to stimulate activity in the dormant muscle groups, to support the bones they control,” he said.
One of these reasons to go to a certified trainer like Frost is that they know what they are doing. Frost has been certified with the National Council for Certified Physical Trainers and the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Recently he wrote a column in American News Report about getting an exercise program started if you are older.
In addition to building muscle strength, Frost and Dr. Fatemi agree it’s important to work on balance to help avoid falls.
Hip and spinal fractures are a huge risk factor for osteoporosis patients. Osteoporosis is responsible for 1.5 million fractures in the U.S. annually at a cost of $14 billion. About half of all women and a quarter of all men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis, according to the National Institutes of Health.
“You might join an exercise class with people your own age, especially yoga or pilates,” said Frost. “It’s important to remember that you are in there to work to the best of your capability so don’t worry about keeping up with the person next to you.”
If you have any specific questions for Frost, send them here and we’ll answer.