Osteoporosis and Physical Therapy - Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital

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Published on June 12, 2017

Osteoporosis and Physical Therapy

Learn how physical therapy can alleviate symptoms of osteoporosis in The Edge Blog by the experts at Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital. Osteoporosis is a disease where the bone density is decreased making the bones in the individual brittle and weak. It is commonly described as a “silent” pathology because no physical symptoms are felt unless a fracture occurs. Some people may notice a loss of height while others may notice a “humpback” or Dowager’s hump -- this is called hyperkyphosis. Hyperkyphosis is an exaggerated anterior curve of the spine that results in forward-curved posture of the head, upper back, or thoracic spine.

Problems Associated with Hyperkyphosis

For every inch of head projection, you are putting 10 pounds of extra force on the spine. Some of the implications of hyperkyphosis are:

Functional Limitations

  • Difficulty getting up from a chair
  • Poor balance and walking speed
  • Wider base of support with walking
  • Decreased stair climbing speed

Musculoskeletal Alterations

  • May cause pain and dysfunction of the shoulder, neck, lower back
  • Decreased grip strength; predictor of frailty
  • Significant risk for future spine and extremity fracture

Quality of Life

  • Higher incidence of physical difficulty, fear and fall risk
  • Overall report of decreased quality of life

Increased Mortality

  • Reduced lung capacity resulting in increased difficulty breathing

Treatment

Currently, there is no medication shown to improve hyperkyphosis. The only proven intervention that is used to help reduce kyphotic posture and lessen pain is physical therapy. Studies show that a rounded back posture may be modified by spinal extensor muscle strengthening exercises. Therefore in the rehabilitation process the therapist will teach specific exercises to help reduce the kyphotic posture and train the individual to avoid forward bend stresses on the spine during exercise and activities of daily living (i.e. bed mobility, bathing, dressing, housework, etc).

The benefits of improving posture will help increase the lung capacity of the individual which will improve breathing. In addition, by improving posture the risk of fractures will decrease and quality of life will significantly improve.

More Information

If you’re at risk for osteoporosis or experiencing symptoms, speak with your primary care physician or make an appointment with one of our spine and neck care specialists.

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