Osteoporosis is one of the most serious health problems in the country. The disease, which causes bone mass and density to gradually deteriorate, is estimated to affect as many as 1 in 5 men and 1 in 3 women during their lifetime, according to Osteoporosis Canada. Osteoporosis fractures are more common than heart attacks, breast cancer, and stroke combined.
There is no cure for osteoporosis, although some medications can help to slow its progress, as can good lifestyle habits such as eating well, getting enough vitamin D and calcium, and exercising regularly. Massage therapy can also be a valuable complimentary treatment, helping to limit some of the problems the condition can cause for patients in their daily lives.
Read on to learn more about osteoporosis, and the role of massage therapy in helping patients affected by the condition.
In the early stage of osteoporosis, the symptoms of the condition are more or less invisible. As a result, many patients don’t realize they have the disease until they suffer a bone fracture. Fractures are most common in the hip, shoulder, wrist, and spine, and can often occur as a result of relatively minor incidents due to the decrease in bone strength that patients will experience.
The recovery process for patients who suffer osteoporotic fractures is often long and problematic. A study of female nursing home residents in Maryland who experienced fractures revealed that they were hospitalized 15 times more often than those other residents in the month following the incident, and also required increased contact with physicians and therapists over the next 12 months.
The condition can also lead to ongoing postural issues and difficulty in completing ordinary daily activities like walking, exercising, and standing for long periods of time. During the more advanced stages of the disease, patients may also experience some height loss, or even develop a humped back as result of poor posture.
When treating a patient with osteoporosis, a massage therapist should look to avoid any manoeuvres that will put undue strain on their fragile bone structure, such as muscle stretching, flexion of the joints, and deep tissue massage.
In addition, because osteoporosis is so common, and often goes undetected, students in massage courses should keep it in mind when assessing patients for other complaints, as their problems may well be triggered by the condition.
Particular care should be taken when dealing with older patients, specifically females, who are the most likely to suffer from the disease, as well as patients with a history of dental problems, bone fractures, or visible postural problems. Other common risk factors include poor dietary habits, medication use, smoking, and heavy drinking. Should you suspect that a patient may have undiagnosed osteoporosis, it’s important to refer them to a physician immediately.
The primary focus of a massage college student treating a patient with osteoporosis is typically to relieve any chronic pain they are experiencing as a result of their condition. Swedish massage can be extremely effective for this purpose, reducing muscular tension and enhancing blood flow in the surrounding musculature of the affected areas.
RMTs may also perform gentle movements on affected joints to stimulate a normal range of motion, in order to promote maximum freedom of movement and joint health. Treatment may also incorporate postural re-education techniques in order to correct some of the posture problems caused by osteoporosis, as these imbalances can weaken the bone further and lead to the condition worsening.
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