OSTEOPOROSIS & MENOPAUSE
Updated: Apr 10
Osteoporosis occurs when your body absorbs more bone than it produces. Bones lose density, become weak, and are prone to fractures. This process isn't the sole cause of osteoporosis; there are other factors that contribute to and exacerbate the onset of the disease.
Peak bone mass is usually reached during a woman’s 20s to 30s when the skeleton has stopped growing and bones are at their strongest. When women reach menopause their estrogen levels drop significantly. Estrogen is important to new bone production because it supports osteoblasts, which are bone-producing cells. Without estrogen, osteoblasts can't produce enough new bone, and eventually, osteoclasts (bone-absorbing cells) overpower them. That's why post-menopausal women are at a high risk for osteoporosis.
The average woman loses up to 10 per cent of her bone mass in the first five years after menopause.
Osteoporosis doesn’t usually cause a lot of initial symptoms and often people don’t know they have weak bones until they’ve had a break or fracture. . The best action for detecting it in the early stages is having a bone density scan especially if you have a family history of osteoporosis. Some early signs and symptoms that may point toward bone loss are;
RECEDING GUMS. Your gums can recede if your jaw is losing bone.
WEAKER GRIP STRENGTH. Researchers have found that low handgrip strength was linked to low bone mineral density. In addition, lower grip strength can increase your risk for falls.
BRITTLE FINGERNAILS. Nail strength can signal bone health. But you should also take into consideration outside factors such as swimming, gardening, and other exercises that may affect your nails.
Later stage symptoms of osteoporosis can be a lot more obvious and may include;
LOSS OF HEIGHT. Compression fractures in the spine can cause a loss of height. This is one of the most noticeable symptoms of osteoporosis.
FRACTURES. A fracture is one of the most common signs of fragile bones. Fractures can occur with a fall or a minor movement such as stepping off a curb. Some osteoporosis fractures can even be triggered by a strong sneeze or cough.
BACK OR NECK PAIN. Osteoporosis can cause compression fractures of the spine. These fractures can be very painful because the collapsed vertebrae may pinch the nerves that radiate out from the spinal cord.
STOOPED POSTURE. The compression of the vertebrae may also cause a slight curving of the upper back. A stooped back is known as Kyphosis which can cause back and neck pain. This posture can even affect breathing due to limited expansion of the lungs.
SO HOW CAN WE HELP MAINTAIN OUR BONE DENSITY
Exercising regularly is an essential defence against osteoporosis. Exercise builds and maintains strong bone density. Physical activities that are beneficial in preventing fracture are weight bearing and resistance training exercises.
Pilates is beneficial for helping to maintain bone strength and density, improving muscle strength and balance to reduce the risk of falls, as well as assisting with pain and posture. Weight bearing can be achieved using Pilates equipment with spring resistance. Working in closed chain or pseudo closed chain allows for controlled concentric and eccentric loading of bones.
Resistance training using weights of some kind – for example machines, dumbbells, ankle or wrist weights – to create resistance, which helps build muscle mass and places an extra load on the involved limb bones.
Recent studies have also shown that swimming is helpful, since it requires your body to move against the resistance of the water.
Australian Menopause Society
Pilates Alliance of Australasia