What is osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, meaning porous bones, is a bone disease in which bone becomes increasingly brittle, leading to a high risk of a fracture. It is a silent disease which is not diagnosed until a fracture occurs. It first develops as osteopenia (early stage osteoporosis) and then progresses to osteoporosis.

Who does it affect

It is a major problem worldwide, affecting both men and women but Caucasian women over 50 years of age are at highest risk. However, it is a preventable disease in the majority of cases.

Why does osteoporosis develop

Bone is a living tissue and is constantly being renewed. Peak bone mass is reached by the late twenties to early thirties. From your mid-forties on, bone is naturally lost at 1% per annum. This is accelerated in the first few years after the menopause, mainly due to the lack of oestrogen – hence the reason why women are more at risk to developing osteoporosis. There are many risk factors for the development of osteoporosis – both modifiable and nonmodifiable;

Symptoms of osteoporosis

  • Sudden severe symptoms of upper, mid or lower back pain.
  • Loss of height (greater than 2 cm)
  • Change in skeletal shape – eg. development of a Dowagers hump

Non-modifiable risk factors for osteoporosis

  • Genetics/Family history
  • Female
  • Advancing age
  • Early menopause
  • Low testosterone levels

Modifiable risk factors for osteoporosis

  • Lack of dietary calcium
  • Low Vitamin D intake
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive exercise
  • Low BMI
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol or coffee consumption


Awareness of the disease osteoporosis and awareness of the risk factors to developing osteoporosis are the first steps to the prevention of this disease. Key prevention strategies include;

  1. Exercise

Research has shown that appropriate exercise can maintain bone mass and/or slow down the rate of bone loss. Regular weight-bearing exercise plays a vital role in maintaining bone health in adulthood. Weight-bearing exercise include;

  • Brisk walking
  • Jogging
  • Tennis
  • Dancing

To ensure that that the appropriate therapeutic exercise is prescribed please contact your nearest Chartered Physiotherapist for a suitable exercise program.

  1. Diet


A well balanced, calcium rich diet is optimal for bone health. Foodstuffs that are rich in calcium include milk, cheese and yogurt. The Department of Health and Children recommend that children, adults and older people include 3 servings of calcium rich foods per day. A serving of calcium is equivalent to a glass of milk, an ounce of cheese (size of a matchbox) or a pot of yogurt.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, aids in the absorption of calcium and is created through the action of sunlight on the skin. Living in this occasionally sunny and often dull country is not conducive to the production of Vitamin D year round – so it is important that other sources of Vitamin D are consumed. These include eggs, oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) and fortified milk.

In Conclusion

It is essential that you talk to your GP if you develop any of these symptoms or if you have a risk factor for osteoporosis. Remember for the majority of people, this is a preventable disease. Prevention is better than cure!

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