Bone Health:Osteoporosis and Osteopenia

Bones are your scaffolding for keeping you upright and mobile. They support the body against the force of gravity. Bones resist the pull of our muscles to allow movement. As bone is a living tissue, it reacts to appropriate weight-bearing exercise by growing stronger. You need to work hard to maintain this strong scaffolding all throughout your life.

The Facts

  • It is not normal at any age to break a bone (fracture) from a trip and fall, from a standing position or less. Any adult who has broken a bone under these circumstances should be investigated and Osteoporosis ruled out
  • 1st sign of osteoporosis is usually a fracture
  • Common fracture sites include the wrist, hip and spine
  • One in 5 men and 1 in 2 women over 50 will develop a fracture due to osteoporosis in their lifetime
  • There were almost 4,600 hip fractures in Ireland in 2010
  • Every 30 seconds, someone in the EU fractures a hip


Bone health should be a priority from the time you are young. Keep children active physically for at least 60 minutes per day. If your child is a swimmer or cyclist, make sure they also participate in some weight bearing activities, such as walking or running on a daily basis. Stress the importance of not smoking to your teenagers. The toxins in cigarettes are responsible for causing numerous detrimental effects on the body, one of which is accelerated bone loss.

Watch out for constant dieting – celebrity culture is causing many to trade good health for social approval. Overtraining is also one to watch – sporty kids tend to get selected for teams in several sports and end up playing every day without adequate resting. Too much activity, as well as too little can be detrimental to your bones.

For a full list of risk factors for osteoporosis, please see the Irish Osteoporosis Society website Osteoporosis Risk Factors

If you have some of these risk factors, ask your GP for a referral for a DXA scan. Knowledge of the facts can allow you to incorporate simple changes in your lifestyle that will improve your bone mineral density. Remember that osteoporosis is a silent disease; you will not feel your bones weakening.

What should you do if you get a diagnosis of Osteopenia or Osteoporosis?


  • Investigate the cause and address it
  • Treatment will be based on your age, medical history, DXA results, risk factors and your risk of fracture
  • Liase with your GP and discuss what is best for you (Hormone levels may need to be taken by your GP to determine the cause)
  • Diet must be considered – speak to your dietician who can advise you on how to optimise calcium and vitamin D in your diet
  • Liase with your Chartered Physiotherapist with an interest in Osteoporosis and discuss an exercise plan.


Your exercise plan should incorporate:

  • Weight bearing exercise plan
  • Resistance exercise plan
  • Postural assessment, advice and maybe stretching and strengthening
  • Balance assessment, retraining and falls prevention advice


Remember that Osteoporosis affects people of all ages. An exercise programme for a 20, 45 and 70 year old will all differ. Note that muscles adapt to extra use within weeks, but bone improvements take months. Exercise changes must be persistent – this is a lifestyle change that must be permanent.

If you have Osteoporosis:


Set out a  personalised treatment plan with your GP and Chartered Physiotherapist
Make necessary adjustments to your lifestyle
Minimum of 30 minutes of weight bearing exercise every day for the rest of your life
Prevent falls – care with surfaces at home and outside / stay indoors in icy conditions / proper shoes laced up in the house or outside

Do not:

Ignore the diagnosis….it will not go away just because you don’t feel anything
Bend forwards excessively – no sit ups or touching the toes with your knees straight
Bend and twist the spine at the same time

If you need help with implementing an appropriate exercise regime or just to talk about your options.

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