Is Osteopenia reversible?

Is Osteopenia reversible?

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Lyn came to our clinic with her recent Bone Mineral Density (BMD) results in hand.

She was concerned that her results meant she was now osteopenic. Some of you may have experienced similar results and it is a common thing we see in our clinic.

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Osteopenia is a condition in which the  mineral content of bones is reduced, but is not yet severe enough to be labelled Osteoporosis.  

Click here if you want to read more about how Osteoporosis and Osteopenia are diagnosed.

Previous to coming to BJC, Lyn had been diagnosed with Sarcoidosis (a systemic inflammatory condition) some years earlier. She had a team of great doctors looking after her, yet had still struggled to manage her health in the years since her diagnosis. In order to manage the inflammation of different tissues, she was often taking high levels of steroid therapy. She had found it hard to manage her full time work as a nurse, regularly needing time off to focus on her health. She had also noticed a decrease in her level of physical activity as she juggled periods of fatigue and numerous medical appointments.

Thankfully by the time Lyn presented to me, her Sarcoidosis was under better control.

She had returned to work 3 days each week and was keen to work on her strength, fitness and bone health. She told me that got puffed going up a short flight of stairs and she was annoyed that getting up from low chairs felt so hard on her legs!

Being in her 50’s, Lyn was particularly keen to do whatever she could to improve her BMD. She had already consulted with a dietician for recommendations and had also spoken to her GP and rheumatologist at length about her medication.

She had read that exercise might help but didn’t know where to start and what she should be doing.

Initially, I performed a series of different movements to assess Lyn’s mobility, balance and fitness. We spoke about her goals, medical history, previous exercise experiences and any concerns she had about commencing exercise. She was a great candidate to begin a structured exercise routine. After working through a range of different options, Lyn decided she would like to start attending our group exercise sessions twice per week.

There is now some compelling evidence which supports certain types of exercise in those with osteoporosis or osteopenia.
Like anyone new to exercise, Lyn needed to learn the basics. Although we have good evidence that high level resistance training is beneficial to those with low bone density, we can’t necessarily start someone on those types of exercises from day 1.

In her first few weeks, Lyn learned to perform things like squats and lunges. She was also taught how to safely perform different pushing and pulling movements with her arms. Interspersed with interval based bursts on the bike and rowing machine, Lyn was able to quickly feel the difference to how puffed she was feeling climbing stairs and performing her work duties.

In the months that followed Lyn was able to add the following movements to her repertoire.

    • Deadlifts
    • Skipping (sometimes even on one leg)
    • Push Ups from her toes
    • Hopping (both forwards and sideways)
    • Jumping up and over small obstacles
    • Squats with heavy weights

Some of you may be surprised to see such heavy duty exercises on that list. It may look more like a training session performed by a young track and field athlete.

Lyn herself can still barely believe she is now someone that performs such high level movements.

She feels stronger, fitter and is no longer bothered by some of the low level aches and pains she had often felt in her lower back and knees from time to time.

But of even greater importance were the changes to her BMD.

Lyn was due for a repeat scan at the request of her rheumatologist. By this point she had been attending our group exercise sessions for five months. She was also walking twice a week on days she wasn’t coming to the clinic.

Both Lyn and the EP team were thrilled with the results as she was no longer considered osteopenic. Significant increases in bone density were seen at both sites that were tested since her last scan 12 months ago.

Thankfully Lyn is happy to continue her new exercise routine and keen to maintain her changes and get even stronger.

I appreciate this is one individual case study, but great to see in this instance our prescription was able to deliver such a great results.

We know how daunting it may be to start an exercise routine that is focused on increasing BMD. But with appropriate screening, guidance and instruction, it has been great to see that people like Lyn have been able to achieve the results they are looking for.

What do you think? Are you surprised that exercise has been able to make such a change to someone’s bones?

If you are interested in learning how you can increase your bone density then click below!


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