How To Move Without Pain

How to Reverse Osteoporosis Naturally

by Meghan Griech, PT, DPT, cert MDT, CKTP

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Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens our bones and causes them to become fragile. Anyone can be at risk for developing osteoporosis, however, women who are of post-menopausal age are at an increased risk due to the imbalance between the body not making new bone cells as fast as the old bone cells are lost. Bone tissue is constantly reconstructing, but when the new bone isn’t replaced as fast as the loss of old bone you can experience a condition of low bone density known as Osteopenia. 

Osteopenia is when our body is losing bone mass or density. Our bones are weaker than normal but not so brittle that they break easily.  Osteopenia is often a precursor to osteoporosis.

With osteoporosis, new bone creation doesn’t keep up with old bone removal, causing them to be brittle and more easily break.

Your bones are living tissues that are constantly breaking down and rebuilding.  Our body’s making, replenishing, and ‘recycling’ of bone cells is not something we can feel. Like many processes within our body, it just happens. So when the making cells versus recycling cell process becomes off-balance we don’t know. Usually, we don’t find out until our doctors say it’s time to have our bone density tested.

There are some warning signs, more visible ones that can give us an indication that our bones are changing. These include back pain, stooped posture, and loss of height over time. There is an increased risk of fracture resulting from falls from those who have osteoporotic changes in bones.

Treatment can vary and may include medication and/or injections that aim to improve bone density.  Additionally, exercises and daily activity can slow bone loss, and also improve bone density. 

Symptoms from Osteoporosis

There are no ‘felt’ symptoms in the early stages of osteopenia/osteoporosis and most often remain unnoticed for decades. A bone fracture can be the first sign or symptom. Both men and women show similar symptoms, despite osteoporosis being much more common in women

  • Stooped posture
  • Pain associated with fracture most commonly back pain due to compression fractures of the spine
  • Delayed healing due to bone fragility

Maintaining strength in the bones and muscles helps to reduce injuries from falls too.  Exercising if you have osteoporosis means finding the safest, most enjoyable activities for you taking into account your overall health and amount of bone loss. There’s no one-size-fits-all prescription. Workouts should involve weight-bearing exercises, like walking, dancing, or yoga; with progressive increases in the intensity as long as the muscles are given proper time to recover between sessions.

Benefits of exercise

It’s never too late to start exercising. Regular physical activity can:

  • Improve your bone strength
  • Improve your balance
  • Decrease your risk of bone fracture
  • Increase your muscle strength
  • Maintain or improve your posture
  • Relieve or decrease pain
  • Boost your endurance

Walking for bone health:

Walking has many benefits to your joints, muscles, heart length, and overall maintenance of your function.  Beginning walking at a pace that you can comfortably  tolerate for  15-30 minutes is a great place to start. As you increase your endurance, alternate higher-intensity exercises two to three days a week with lower-intensity activities four to five days a week has been found to be most effective. While walking is an easy exercise to begin, you will want to avoid common mistakes to avoid injury and unnecessary stress on joints.

Weight Lifting for bone health:

Using free weights or dumbbells, using the weight machines at the gym, or even doing floor exercises to gain strength is very beneficial for muscle strength and bone strength. Studies have confirmed that it’s important to lift enough weight to stimulate bone growth which means higher weights and lower repetitions. Weight training is recommended two to three times a week so you can give your body a recovery day from the maximum effort. 

Remember that exercise for osteoporosis is site-specific, so target the areas that are most prone to fracture: the spine, hips and wrists.

Looking for some specific exercise ideas, check out this article.

According to the MayoClinic, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, which equals 30minutes of activity 5 days a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise over the course of a week.

But if that is too much for you to start with, even small amounts of physical activity are helpful. Being active for short periods of time throughout the day can add up to provide a health benefits. Try breaking a 30-minute walk up into three 10-minute walks before each meal. 

Always listen to your body. When starting an exercise routine, you may have some muscle soreness and discomfort at the beginning, but this should not be painful or last more than 48 hours. If it does, you may be working too hard and need to ease up. Stop exercising if you have any chest pain or discomfort, and see your doctor before your next exercise session.

If you have osteoporosis, ask your doctor which activities are safe for you. If you have low bone mass, experts recommend that you protect your spine by avoiding exercises or activities that flex, bend, or twist it. For example, any loaded trunk flexion exercise is contraindicated because it loads the vertebral bodies and can increase the risk of compression fracture.

Furthermore, you should avoid high-impact exercise to lower the risk of breaking a bone or exercise machines that have a strong recoil that could cause your body to receive the rebound and cause a strain or fracture.  If your gym has an exercise specialist, talk to them about the proper progression of activity, how to stretch and strengthen muscles safely, and how to correct poor posture habits. 

Remember, exercise is not a one size fits all type of activity. Exercise is only one part of an osteoporosis prevention or treatment program. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D combined with exercise helps strengthen bones at any age. Proper exercise and diet may not be enough to stop bone loss caused by medical conditions, menopause, or lifestyle choices such as tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption. It is important to speak with your doctor about your bone health and know your bone density numbers. Make sure you are doing all you can for your bones and know all the options your family practitioner can provide.

*Disclaimer: All information in this article is intended for instruction and informational purposes. The author(s) are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result.  This information is used to supplement not replace any advice you were provided from your doctor or another medical health professional.  No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied with this article.

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