OSTEOPENIA, now referred to as LOW BONE MASS, is lower than normal bone density or thickness. Low bone mass is diagnosed by a physician, based on the results of a bone density scan.

It can occur at any age but is most likely to occur 5-7 years after the start of menopause. It may also occur if you have naturally less dense bones, have lost bone mass over time due to a lack of exercise or poor diet, are perimenopausal, or have rapidly lost bone mass due to illness or medication. Low bone mass is different from osteoporosis, a condition in which the bone structure becomes thin, porous, and weakened. People with low bone mass are more likely to experience a fracture than those without.


How can your physical therapist help?

At your initial appointment, your physical therapist will review your health history (including medical and surgical, family, medication, diet, exercise, and hormone). He or she will also review your lifestyle (your activities of daily living, your work and recreation) and assess your risk factors for low bone mass. Once they have all of the background information needed, they will complete a full exam of your strength, flexibility, mobility, posture, and balance.

At Jade, our physical therapists will use the information gathered in the exam to prescribe the appropriate type and intensity of exercise to best build and maintain bone structure. If necessary, they will work with you on balance exercises to help reduce the risk of falling. Our physical therapists will improve your motor control and strength to improve joint biomechanics, reduce joint stress, and improve posture.

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A few examples of appropriate exercise:

Weight bearing exercises:

  • Walking at a quick pace* (2.6 steps/second or 122-160 steps/minute)
  • Dancing
  • Jogging
  • Jumping/plyometrics
  • Tennis/racquetball

Resistance exercises:

  • Weights
  • Aquatic exercise
  • Resistance bands
  • Gravity resistance/body weight (planks, push ups, step ups, yoga, stairs)

*It should be noted that walking alone is not effective for preserving bone density in postmenopausal women.

Risk factors for the development of low bone mass include:

  • Smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle (less than 5,000 steps/day)’
  • Poor diet
  • Low calcium/vitamin D
  • Excessive alcohol intake (>1 drink/day for women, >2/day for men)

Please contact us at Jade Integrated Health if you have questions about low bone mass, exercise for the prevention of bone loss, safe exercise, improving your balance, fall prevention, or women’s health. Call for a FREE 30-minute consult and learn how we can help you!

Portland: (207)773-5778

Brunswick: (207)844-8280



Meena Sran PT, MPT. Osteoporosis. Rehabilitation Research Forum, APTA. 11 Aug 2017. Available at: https://www.ptnow.org/clinical-summaries-detail/osteoporosis-3#ViewComplete. Accessed 12 April 2018.