Osteoporosis and mental health

You may have noticed an increase in conversations about bone health and how it can affect many different systems of your body. From your muscular system to your hormonal system and even your immune system.

The message being delivered is to have a proactive approach towards your bone health because it is something you cannot see deteriorating and we know due to the aging process it does decline 1-2% from the age of 30 years onwards.

As well as the physical elements of osteoporosis and the challenges that come with mobility, stability and a risk of falls, comes with a very real concern for mental health.

For many the diagnosis of osteoporosis comes as a surprise and a shock. They may not have had any indication that they were at risk of significant bone loss, that the medication they were on was going to adversely affect bone density or that the activity they were participating in wasn’t substantial enough to trigger bone growth (like walking). This is usually accompanied by feelings of disbelief and uncertainty for the future.

Whatever the reason that has led to a diagnosis of osteoporosis, the next steps are really important to be able to move towards a place of acceptance and action.

Firstly education, we highly recommend understanding the report and any blood test results that highlighted the diagnosis.

The DEXA scan is currently the most recognised test for diagnosing bone health conditions.

Secondly is support. Who do you have in your corner to assist the next phase of your health journey? It’s important to explore and resource a team of people that know, specialise and understand bone health and can be your cheerleader as you work towards better bone health.

There are various health practitioners that can be part of an individuals team and together can successfully support an individual on their journey with osteoporosis or low bone density. We always recommend knowing your starting point. This may originate with a GP for some blood tests on the levels of various hormones, minerals and vitamins vital for bone health.

Do you need to see an endocrinologist?

An endocrinologist can diagnose and treat hormone problems and the complications that arise from them. Endocrinologists are qualified to diagnose and treat conditions like diabetes, thyroid diseases, infertility, growth issues, metabolic disorders, osteoporosis, some cancers, and disorders in the hormone-producing adrenal glands and pituitary glands.

What about a rheumatologist?

A rheumatologist specializes in diagnosing and treating arthritis, other complex musculoskeletal conditions and autoimmune diseases. There are more than 200 distinct rheumatic conditions that can affect the joints, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and other connective tissues throughout the body.

Or even a dietician or nutritionist to ensure the appropriate amount of minerals and nutrients in your diet. All extremely important to absorb and build strong healthy bones.

The more people in your corner, the more opportunity for healing and ongoing support.

Unfortunately, some people learn they have osteoporosis only after they break a bone from a fall that seemed minor, according to the Healthy Bones Australia (formally Osteoporosis Australia).

There is a cyclic process that occurs once an individual suffers their first fall.  Usually increasing one’s ability to move around without concern. By feeling more uncertain (walking or doing a daily task), it can impact and diminish a person’s confidence. With confidence down, they may then more tentatively. When you move tentatively, you can become unbalanced, and when you’re unbalanced, you’re more likely to fall.

Once you fracture a bone because of osteoporosis, you’re at greater risk of doing it again. After a second fracture has occurred, people can become depressed, Healthy Bones Australia says.

Fear of falling can also keep you from physical activities you enjoy — even from walking. However, your bones are constantly regenerating: Your body removes old bone and replaces it with new bone. Weight-bearing exercise encourages this process. If you stop moving because you’re afraid, you could make your osteoporosis worse.

So, what are some strategies for improving your emotional health and wellbeing with osteoporosis.

  1. Manage your osteoporosis – form the team of supportive knowledgeable health practitioners around you. If you don’t feel supported, they may not be the right fit!
  2. Get physical – motion is lotion and great for the endorphins. Bone must be stressed to grow and the only way to stress it is through load bearing activity. (insert OsteoStrong here). Resistance training is great to minimise the loss of muscle strength, also an important part of the bone health equation!
  3. Talk to someone – reach out to a practitioner to talk about any concerns or worries. Your feelings and experience are individual and valid!
  4. Find ways to continue doing what you love – this may mean altering the length or duration of time invested initially and/or changing the frequency but keep finding the joy in life in things you love!
  5. Work with someone who can support your exercise journey and help prevent a fall in the first place.

Of course, OsteoStrong is our first preference, especially to gain the required dose response for bone building however Exercise Physiologists, Physiotherapists and some Personal Trainers can provide great 1:1 care to assist in loading bones correctly. We recommend having a conversation to ascertain suitability before commencing any new program (refer to point 1).

If you or someone you know needs some help, talking to a doctor is a good place to start. To find out more, or if they would like to talk to someone else, here are some organisations that can help:

Beyond Blue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.

Lifeline (anyone having a personal crisis) — call 13 11 14 or chat online.

Black Dog Institute (people affected by mood disorders) — online help.

SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness) — call 1800 187 263.

Team OsteoStrong

Team OsteoStrong

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