What can I do to combat osteoporosis/osteopenia?

The good news is that we are running a class called Buff Bones starting Friday 8th September at 11am with Sue Culley.  Excercise and diet are critical in the maintenance of healthy bones.

Book online @ https://physiotherapyworks.ie/pilates/pilates-timetable/ or give us a call on 045-866075 Sept/Oct course €140

There is also a lot that you can do for yourself, including learning more about the condition, weight-bearing exercise and a healthy diet.

Osteopenia / Osteoporosis

Osteopenia is a term used to describe bone density that is somewhat lower than normal, but not low enough to be diagnosed as osteoporosis. A person with osteopenia is at high risk for developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition in which thinning bones become so fragile that they are prone to fracture easily. A person with osteopenia may benefit from treatment aimed at strengthening bone.

How Osteopenia Happens

At age 30, bones are as strong and dense as they will ever be. From 30 onwards bones begin to get thinner as we age. Womens bones are thinner to begin with and together with hormonal changes at menopause make women more liekly to develop osteopenia than men. Women, or men with osteopenia or osteoporosis, need treatment to help slow bone loss or help new bone form. The following healthy habits and treatments for osteopenia may strengthen bones and reduce fracture risk.

A Healthy Lifestyle

The best remedies for osteopenia are lifestyle habits everyone should adopt. If you have strong bones, a healthy lifestyle can help keep them that way. If you already have osteopenia, these same habits can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Exercise: Bones become stronger when you exercise. So exercise is very important. The best exercise for bones is weight-bearing exercise that forces your body to work against gravity. This includes walking, climbing stairs, and working with resistanec bands or weights.

Diet: Calcium and Vitamin D are important for strong bones. High-calcium foods include:

  • Dairy products such as cheese, ice cream, low-fat milk, and yogurt
  • Green vegetables such as broccoli and collard greens
  • Sardines and salmon, with bones
  • Tofu

When your skin is exposed to sunlight, your body makes its own Vitamin D. A few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Others, such as grains and milk products, are fortified with vitamin D. Good dietary sources of vitamin D include:

  • Fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
  • Fish liver oils
  • Beef liver
  • Cheese
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified breakfast cereals, juices, milk products, yogurt, and margarine

Smoking and drinking: If you smoke, it’s important to quit. Studies have shown a direct relationship between cigarette smoking and decreased bone density. Quitting smoking may help limit bone loss due to smoking. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation (no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men). Too much alcohol can interfere with the balance of calcium in your body and affect the production of hormones and vitamins that play a role in healthy bones. It can also increase your risk of falling, which could cause you to break a bone.

Cutting back on salt and caffeine: Both caffeine and salt may contribute to calcium and bone loss. To improve bone health, switch to non-caffeinated beverages, avoid soft drinks, check labels of packaged foods for sodium content, and remove the salt shaker from your table.

Drugs for Osteopenia

You may be prescribed medication to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. Medications that may be used for osteopenia or prevention of osteoporosis in these cases include:

  • Bisphosphonates. Bisphosphonates are medications that slow the natural process that breaks down bone, which results in maintenance or a small increase of bone density. Bisphosphonates are the main drugs used to prevent and treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. This class of drugs includes Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel, and Reclast. Most bisphosphonates are taken by mouth, usually once a week or once a month. Reclast is given by injection, usually once a year.
  • Hormone replacement therapy. Once a popular therapy for preventing bone loss, hormone replacement therapy is rarely used for that purpose anymore, because it has been found to increase the risk for deep venous thrombosis (blood clots in the leg), pulmonary embolus (blood clots in the lung), and other health problems. Sometimes, if hormone replacement has been helpful for easing a woman’s menopausal symptoms, her doctor may recommend continuing it for bone loss, too. If you are considering hormone replacement therapy to prevent osteoporosis, speak with your doctor about the potential risks.
  • Parathyroid hormone. Forteo, a portion of hormone made by your parathyroid glands, is the first agent to stimulate the formation of new bone. It is approved for women and men and is given daily by a shot beneath the skin.


Exercise treatment can do three important things:

  1. Prevent fractures
  2. Stop further bone loss and
  3. Increase your bone density

Exercise treatment should include both balance and weight bearing exercises

1.Balance exercises prevent falls. If you do not fall, you are far less likely to suffer a fracture. We lose about 1% of our balance every year after the age of 35. By the time you reach age 65 you will have lost 30% of your natural balance and by age 80, close to half your balancing ability will be gone UNLESS YOU PRACTICE BALANCE EXERCISES on a regular basis. Age related loss of balance is the main reason why elders fall, and if those who fall have osteoporosis or osteopaenia it is an increased risk for a broken bone.

  1. Weight bearing exercises. Weight beraing exercise is what stimulates Osteoblasts, the cells that build new bones. Weight bearing exercises should be done at least 3 times a week.

Points to consider as you build your bone density exercises plan:

  1. Osteoblasts, the bone cells that make new bone, respond to increased stress on our bones. Different parts of the body are stressed by different exercises so if you can incorporate different types of exercises weekly. Such as walking, riding a bicyle with resistance, climbing stairs and weight or resistance band exercise.
  2. If you are lifting weights / using theraband for strength training, rest one or two days between sessions. Your muscles need time to recover.
  3. Remember it is stress on the bone that stimulates the osteoblasts. When lifting weights, the best bone density exercise is to lift a weight heavy enough that you can only do 7-8 repetitions. Use a resistnace band that is hard enough.
  4. Lift SLOWLY. Try to lift each weight to a slow count of eight up and then down to a count of eight down. Slow lifting is the key to stronger bones.
  5. It is normal to feel a bit sore the next day…or even on the third day. But you should not feel real pain either when you lift or after your exercises. If you are feeling pain, go back down to a lower weight and lift slowly until your muscles strengthen.

      6. Finally, you can practice one very important exercise every day in the privacy of your own home. Get             up from your chair without using your hands every time you rise from a chair.


If you would like to book into the Buff Bones class with Sue Culley from Friday 8th September at 11am please call us on 045-866075 or book online @ https://physiotherapyworks.ie/pilates/pilates-timetable/ 

Blog by Fran Theron MISCP, Physiotherapy Works, Millennium Park, Naas, Co. Kildare 045-866075

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