Osteoporosis may not always be recognised in a person, yet can affect one female in three and one male in twelve over the age of 50. Through all my years of teaching Pilates, I have met with many ladies (oddly enough, no gents as yet) who suffer with this condition. Warning bells will ring in my head if a person comes in to class and informs me of the constant pain and tightness they carry in the back of their neck (they have usually put it down to tension caused by stress).
Initially I will try different movements with them from a variety of the exercises we have been doing to find the ones they feel are aggravating their neck. If it doesn’t help in any way, I ask my client if they would be happy book up for a DEXA scan with their doctor to eliminate the possibilities of Osteoporosis. Experience of this condition has shown me that if the person is of a slight build/frame and has noticeably small wrists and may have fractured bones in the past, there is a good chance that it will be Osteoporosis. Often people may also suffer with Migraines.
So as not to scare or upset my client, I explain that if the scan is positive and Osteoporosis is evident, we can change their program slightly, so that they can still continue in the same class BUT with a clear objective on how to help this condition and not contribute towards it.
Before I offer ideas on how to deal with Osteoporosis within your own classes I thought I would share a little bit of information about our skeletal system and changes that occur within our bones as we get older.
Bone is a living tissue and is formed by a process called ‘Ossification’. Bone is constantly being replaced by new bone through the action of Osteoblasts (bone building cells) and Osteoclasts (bone-consuming cells). Young bone growth is faster than bone resorption, but the two even-out with age and eventually the bone formation FAILS to equal bone resorption and thus bone loss occurs.
The role of exercise is SO important in preventing bone loss as bone-loading exercises (i.e. weight bearing exercises) stimulate calcium production.
Age related changes in bones:
– Osteomalacia: The bones become soft, due to problems with absorbing vitamin D. Nuts and seeds are a good source of vitamin D and it is also important to get at least 20 minutes of sunlight per day with arms and legs exposed, as the body does not store vitamin D.
– Osteoporosis: Commonly referred to as ‘brittle bone disease’, is a bone disorder characterized by low bone density and deterioration in the micro architecture of the bones. This results in bone fragility and an increased fracture risk, especially at wrists, spine and hip.
– Osteopenia: This is considered to be a precursor to osteoporosis.
Established (severe) osteoporosis:
National statistics relating to osteoporosis:
– Osteoporosis costs the NHS and government approximately £1.7 billion each year (equates to £5m per day).
– 1 in 3 women and 1 in 12 men over 50 will develop Osteoporosis.
– Every 3 minutes someone has a fracture as a result of Osteoporosis.
– An estimated 3 million people in the UK suffer from Osteoporosis.
– Osteoporosis is on the increase. There were 10,000 hip fractures per year in the 1960s; now there are 70,000 hip fractures per year.
– Hip fractures account for more than 20% of orthopedic bed occupancy in the UK.
– Half of all survivors after hip fracture cannot cope with living independently again.
The following can contribute to Osteoporosis:
– Failure to store calcium
– Vitamin D deficiency
– Anti convulsants
– Cushions disease
– Excessive exercising
– Previous fractures
– A kyphotic posture type
Wolff’s Law states that regular weight bearing exercise can improve bone density and reduce fracture risk. It can improve balance and co-ordination to help reduce the risk of falls.
Use of free weights and bands can be added for resistance in the upper and lower body, it is however imperative that good movement quality is always adhered to alongside posture alignment.