How Does Osteoporosis Affect Your Feet?
Almost one million Australians currently have osteoporosis, with one in four women aged over 75 years being affected. As this condition skyrockets your vulnerability to bone fractures and associated hospitalisations, it’s important to understand why and how osteoporosis develops and who is at risk. Today, our podiatrists have shared all of this and what you can do to help protect your bone health if you develop osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis: What Is It?
Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens the bones, making them fragile and more likely to break when placed under stress. The term literally means porous bones. It’s important to note that being diagnosed with osteoporosis does not mean that your bone health and mineral density has simply started to decrease - this is known as osteopenia. If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, your bones have already become significantly thin and vulnerable, to the point that even a minor bump or accident - or at worst even a sneeze - may cause a broken bone.
Osteoporosis develops gradually over time, often over a number of years. For many, a broken bone will be their first indicator of osteoporosis, while others may develop back troubles associated with a forwards bent posture, and some may see early signs on a bone scan.
While a decrease in bone density is a normal part of ageing, for some this process is accelerated, placing them at a higher risk. This tends to occur commonly in women after the first few years of menopause, and is a greater risk in those that take steroids and other medications for a prolonged time, avoid regular exercise, have nutritional deficiencies, suffer from medical problems like inflammatory arthritis or hormone-related problems and have a low BMI, among many others.
If you’re unsure if you may be at risk, you can take the Royal Osteoporosis Society’s free risk test here.
If your bone mineral density is decreasing but you haven’t yet developed osteoporosis, taking small steps to keep your bones healthy can reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. This includes:
- Exercising regularly - at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days per week. Brisk walking is a great start, and including weight-bearing exercise and resistance training is also an important part of improving bone mineral density
- Calcium & vitamin D - as calcium is an important component of strong bones, you should get at least 700mg from your daily diet. This is found in dairy like yoghurt and milk, as well as green leafy vegetables, dried fruit and yoghurt. Calcium supplements are also available. Vitamin D is also important as it helps your body absorb calcium. It is found in oily fish, red meat, egg yolks and other sources, and is also available as a supplement if required
- Lifestyle control - controlling lifestyle factors like smoking and drinking can also help reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. Maintaining a healthy body weight, that is, not being either underweight or overweight, is a strong recommendation from the Royal Osteoporosis Society
Aside from the factors above, treating osteoporosis itself involves using medicine to strengthen the bones, as well as treating and preventing broken bones. Your doctor is your go-to for medical osteoporosis treatment.
As podiatrists, we help patients with osteoporosis by helping them feel comfortable and confident on their feet, reducing their risk of having a fall, and redistributing excess stress away from high-pressure areas in the feet and legs.We do this using:
1. Custom orthotics
We prescribe, design and create custom orthotics for the feet that, in osteoporosis, will help:
- Shift pressure away from areas of the feet that are currently being exposed to high stress and are therefore vulnerable to breaks
- Cushion the feet to better absorb shock
- Promote a healthy gait pattern to reduce excess stress on the tibia and knees during walking
- Improve stability to the feet to reduce the risk of falls
Your shoes become the ground you walk on - and can either help you feel stable and confident, reducing your risk of falls, or exacerbate it. We’ll assess your shoes and make recommendations on the best footwear for your feet, with considerations to any foot problems, abnormalities and symptoms you may have.
3. Physical therapy & exercise physiology
Working together with our sister clinic, The Physio,and our fantastic exercise physiologist, Emily, we can help you with meeting your daily exercise needs safely to help improve your bone health. Aside from regular exercise, this includes hydrotherapy, pilates and more - giving you options even you currently struggle with performing simple exercises
Ready to take control of your bone health?
Our team of experienced podiatrists would love to help - we’ve been helping Toowoomba & Darling Downs care for their foot and leg health for over 20 years. Book your appointment online or call us on (07) 4638 3022