Bone matters: why osteoporosis is a growing concern & what to do about it

NZ owned physio and rehab brand, Active+, is raising awareness of osteoporosis and how to prevent it in the wake of World Osteoporosis Day

Active+, one of the country’s only 100% Kiwi owned physiotherapy and rehabilitation networks is encouraging New Zealanders to pay more attention to their bone health as osteoporosis becomes a growing problem internationally. The call comes in the wake of World Osteoporosis Day, which takes place on 20 October every year.

Studies show that one in three women and one in five men aged 50 or over will sustain an osteoporosis-related fracture. Approximately 200 million people are affected, resulting in a fracture every 3 seconds.

However, according to Active+, it is something that physiotherapy can help with, along with advice on health lifestyle changes, and a balanced diet.

Active+ director and experienced physiotherapist, Andy Schmidt, explains:

“As our population ages, we will see osteoporosis becoming an increasing burden on the New Zealand health system. Often referred to as a ‘silent’ disease, as symptoms are minimal, bone loss slowly increases as part of the aging process after about the age of 30, and can be more rapid for women for several years following menopause.

"This bone loss can then lead to an increased risk of broken bones (fractures), sometimes in situations or from events that wouldn’t normally be expected to cause a fracture, or from quite routine activities such as bending or lifting.”

Andy believes that physiotherapy is still under-appreciated for the role it can play in preventing and easing the pain of osteoporosis – but it can be one of the most powerful tools, even if the person is already suffering from the condition.

According to Andy, there are three main ways that a physiotherapist can assist with osteoporosis.

“Bone is a living tissue that can be improved through some types of exercise. A physiotherapist can work with you to find activities that suit your needs and that will strengthen your bones. This could include hiking, high-impact aerobics, tennis, or dancing. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises are the most important, and your physiotherapist can work with you to find the most suitable for you. These exercises can be done in conjunction with dietary changes, with calcium and vitamin D being especially important. This holistic approach can prevent a person from developing osteoporosis in the first place, which is obviously the best case scenario. Stopping smoking if you do and limiting excess alcohol intake can also help.”

“Physiotherapy can also help with managing pain that has already arisen from the condition, such as lower back pain from a longstanding compression-type of fracture that is sometimes seen in osteoporosis. Your physiotherapist can assess you, giving you exercises and showing you how to move in such a way as to minimise the pain you experience, and also talk you through education in pain managements, as well as advising on pain-relieving modalities that may be able to help, such as a TENS machine.” he adds.

“The third way that physiotherapy can help is fall prevention. Falling is a very common problem for people over 60, but those with osteoporosis are at risk of greater damage due to the thinning of the bones. Through exercises that will strengthen your muscles, improve your balance, and teach you new, safer ways to move, your physiotherapist can help you tackle some of the most damaging aspects of osteoporosis by helping you avoid them altogether.”

If you are worried about osteoporosis or having a fall, ask your GP or a physio for advice. Be sure to contact a health professional as soon as possible if you are in any kind of pain, or suspect a broken bone. If you need urgent support, please contact your GP or dial 111.

Active+ was founded by Gill Webb in 1990. Since then, it is estimated that Active+ has helped more than 300,000 New Zealanders with injury prevention, rehabilitation and wellness.

There is now a growing network of clinics and facilities across the North and South Islands that deliver physiotherapy and multidisciplinary rehabilitation services. Over 700 clinicians deliver services to New Zealanders every day in their workplaces, in their homes and from the practices.

For more details, visit or follow Active+ on Facebook.