Treatments for osteoporosis seek to minimize bone loss, prevent fractures and manage pain. Many therapies are identical to the same steps used to prevent the disease. Among these are maintaining correct body weight, exercising, not smoking, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, proper intake of calcium and vitamin D, and following medication regimens.
Physical activity, in particular weight-bearing exercise, is key in preserving bone density as people age. These may involve stretching bands, weight machines or free weights, but also include walking or jogging, dancing or playing tennis. Balance exercises, such as yoga or tai-chi, increase bone density and help reduce the likelihood of falling.
One of the most important treatment options for osteoporosis is a proper intake of calcium and vitamin D that together keep bones strong. Women over 50 should consume 1,200 mg of calcium every day. For men over 50 the daily amount should be 1,000 mg of calcium. Both should have 400-800 IUs of vitamin D daily. These amounts include the calcium and vitamins present in food, and the doctor may recommend supplements to ensure adequate levels.
Following menopause, women may benefit from medications that have been proven to maintain bone health. Among these are: estrogen and hormone replacement therapy; biosphosphonates that reduce bone loss and increase density; a group of drugs known as selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs); parathyroid hormone to form bone; and an antibody called denosumab.
In cases of severe pain, surgical treatment options for osteoporosis include kyphoplasty to repair a collapsed vertebra, and spinal fusion joining two vertebrae together to prevent movement between them.
Other treatments for osteoporosis involve rehabilitation programs that focus on decreasing pain and preventing fractures while minimizing bone loss. Tailored to meet each individual’s needs and ability, rehabilitation may include exercise programs, nutritional counseling, pain management and training in assistive devices such as hand rails to reduce the potential for fractures.