Aging, obesity and chronic health conditions, among other things, can lead to limited mobility and strength. And these issues can in turn contribute to spine, muscle and joint problems. As we age, our bones decline in density, starting at age 30. And if bone mass gets dangerously low, it’s called osteoporosis. Physical exercise, particularly if it’s weight-bearing, can help you better manage osteoporosis, including its side effects. The higher you get your bone mass up before 30, the lower the risk of getting osteoporosis later.
According Report on Ageing and Health 2015, a spine, muscle and joint report prepared for the World Health Organization (WHO), osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and sarcopenia (muscle loss) affect millions. And in Canada, osteoporosis affects two million Canadians but many people only get diagnosed after they break a bone.
For most people, spine, muscle and joint problems start with mild symptoms, such as joint pain, stiffness and swelling. Discomfort can prompt you to limit activity, leading to weaker muscles. You lose more range of motion and things start to increasingly hurt.
You begin using muscles and joints wrong, which makes it worse. At this point, people may stop exercising and begin limiting their everyday activities too.
An inactive lifestyle can contribute to many chronic conditions, including osteoporosis, among others. Inactivity can also lead balance issues, which puts you at risk of falling. Plus, people who have multiple conditions must often juggle a wide range of medications and all their potential side effects.
These conditions can lead to very serious outcomes, such as falls that shorten your lifespan. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Being physically active can turn things around for those with conditions such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. That’s the power of exercise.
Exercise impacts health, but it must be the right exercise. Controlled movements that build strength and range of motion are ideal. A combination of activities, such as swimming, cardio gym machines and low-impact aerobics, can be effective. However, weight-bearing exercise works best to help you manage osteoporosis.
For those whose range of motion is limited, yoga and Pilates can be helpful, along with further support from chiropractic care, massage therapy and physiotherapy.
The right activity for the right person can make a big difference. Dr. John Antoniou, an orthopaedic surgeon and former president of the Canadian Orthopaedic Association, says: “You won’t reverse the damage that’s occurred, but it’ll maintain the function that’s still there.”
Exercise can help you manage osteoporosis to slow the rate of bone loss that comes with this age-related bone disease. It can also reverse some age-related muscle mass loss. With less pain, stronger muscles and better balance, you’ll find you can do much more.
A chiropractor can prescribe a therapeutic exercise program to help increase your strength and range of motion in affected areas. This program can include stretching, strengthening, postural awareness, balance training and neuromuscular exercise.
However, exercise as therapy to help manage osteoporosis can be challenging because your instinct is to stop moving once you have mild pain. An integrated approach between a medical doctor who is supporting patients with chronic health conditions and a chiropractor assisting in managing the muscle, spine and joint components can help you become more active.
“The mentality is sometimes it hurts, so I won’t do it,” says Dr. Ed Ziesmann, vice-president of education programs and services for the Arthritis Society. You need to push through discomfort but stop when you feel true pain.
Guidance from health care professionals on “hurt versus harm” can make sure exercise is healing, not hurting.
Meanwhile, for the many people who don’t enjoy traditional exercise, such as going to the gym, Ziesmann advises focusing on doing everyday life activities. These activities can include walking, gardening and playing golf.
Currently only one in five Canadian seniors get the recommended 150 minutes of activity per week. With help from a health care professional, like a chiropractor and your integrated care team, you can break this pattern to better manage age-related conditions like osteoporosis.
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