Coping strategies for osteoporosis challenges

When faced with an osteoporosis diagnosis, it’s not uncommon to feel anxious and worried about the challenges that lie ahead. Osteoporosis can impact both your physical and mental health if you let it overwhelm you. The good news is that osteoporosis is both manageable and treatable with plenty of things you can do to face any physical and emotional challenges head on including: 

  • Speaking up
  • Moving more (but carefully)
  • Optimising your nutrition
  • Managing your stress level

Speaking up

When first diagnosed with osteoporosis, it’s common to feel upset, shock or anger followed by worry and a loss of confidence. Try to think positive: with a diagnosis, you know where you stand with your Dexa score giving you a start point. It’s important to be proactive and recognise your emotions and feelings are every bit as important as your physical health.

As with any challenge to your mental health, it’s OK not to feel OK and vitally important you speak up, tell others how you feel and seek support. It may be tempting to withdraw from social situations and stay ‘safe’ at home, but taking yourself out of circulation will only compound any feelings of isolation or self-pity.

Bone health and mental health are interrelated, with some studies indicating that depression and anxiety are associated with osteoporosis. It’s not completely clear why, but it’s thought that stress hormones released when we’re feeling anxious can cause an inflammatory response in the body that negatively impacts bone health. Ironically, having osteoporosis can cause further anxiety if people fret about how it will affect their social and family lives or if it will impact their work and financial wellbeing. Not to mention worrying about future falls and fractures.

Taking stock

You need to take stock and take action to stop things spiralling out of control.

Firstly, recognise that withdrawing from society and stopping your day-to-day activities could lead to social isolation and loneliness. Whereas, if you engage more widely with society and seek support you will find help and encouragement to manage your osteoporosis. Mental health charities and your GP are a good place to start. Also, your local leisure centre or community hall is likely to have exercise and social groups run by experts in active ageing.

Moving more (but carefully)

It’s well documented that being sedentary can weaken your bones and muscles and weight bearing activity can strengthen both. Furthermore, balancing activity such as Pilates, yoga and Tai Chi can boost your proprioception and reduce your risk of falling. Joining a group session of one or more of these will bring you into contact with instructors and other participants who will understand your concerns. Mindfulness and breathwork are integral to this type of activity which will also help you manage your response and emotions regarding your osteoporosis.

Exercise is extremely important for both your physical and mental health. Even taking a brisk walk for 10-15 minutes will give you a boost.  As well as strengthening your bones and muscles, physical activity will improve your balance, thus helping prevent you from falling and fracturing your bones.

A mix of activities is best to prevent boredom and to ensure you work different muscles in different ways. Jogging, skipping and dancing are all excellent for your bone health but check with your GP before you embark on these ‘high impact’ exercises where you leave the ground and ‘land’. Walking with purpose will help raise your heart rate and lift your mood. Cycling and swimming can be really good to relieve stress and anxiety but won’t help your bones! Bodyweight exercises and lifting weights such as dumbbells, kettlebells and exercise balls are best to boost bone density.

If you’re not used to exercising, seek out a qualified instructor or fitness class so that you can learn the right techniques and the best way to perform each exercise. One-to-one sessions may be good to start but working out in a group will bring a very welcome social element among like-minded people.

Optimising your nutrition

A good diet sits at the heart of good health and strong bones need calcium, vitamin D, collagen and magnesium among other things. The bioactive collagen peptides found in bonebalance are optimised for bone tissue and play a significant role in strengthening your bones and bringing resilience. Good levels of collagen will help attract and hold nutrients within your bones.

A good diet will help your mental health as much as your physical health with wholefoods, fresh fruit and vegetables and lean protein all recommended to improve your mood and reduce inflammation and stress in the body. The reverse is also true with a diet high in sugar, processed foods, additives, refined foods and alcohol all having a negative impact on both your physical and mental wellbeing.

Foods to boost your mood include:

  • Fatty fish such as salmon which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Dark chocolate comprises compounds to trigger ‘feel-good’ chemicals in your brain
  • Fermented foods like kimchi, yogurt, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut are packed with probiotics to support gut health
  • Bananas which combine natural sugar, vitamin B6 and prebiotic fibre to keep your blood sugar level and mood stable
  • Oats also provide fibre to stabilise blood sugar levels plus their iron content could improve mood among people with an iron deficiency
  • Berries are bursting with phytonutrients and anthocyanins thought to boost mood
  • Nuts and seeds are high in tryptophan, zinc and selenium to support your brain function and reduce the risk of depression
  • Beans and lentils are rich sources of mood-boosting B vitamins.

Managing your stress level

The worry of an osteoporosis diagnosis can cause stress which, in turn, can create tension in your neck, shoulder and upper back.  Hardly helpful! Look for ways to relax physically and mentally and seek out a Pilates, Yoga and/or Tai Chi class to learn movement and breathing techniques. Make sure to tell your instructor that you have osteoporosis so they can modify any exercises that might need to be changed.

As well as exercise, getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to your wellbeing. If you can, try meditation to help you be mindful and able to manage your mood during your waking hours.

Act now

Awareness and understanding of the physical and emotional impact of osteoporosis is better than ever. With our ageing population in the UK, there is an increased focus on exercise and nutrition to support long term health conditions  – including osteoporosis – that often challenge us in mid to later life.

If you’re newly diagnosed or feeling anxious about your osteoporosis, be kind to yourself and take one step at a time. Believe that your strength, mobility and confidence will grow day by day. Don’t expect too much of yourself initially and try to find a friend to join you on your journey to keep you both accountable, focused and supported.

Remember, osteoporosis is treatable, its symptoms can be managed and any pain can be alleviated. Having osteoporosis doesn’t mean you’ll definitely have a fracture nor is it a point from where you cannot restore good health. The more you do now, the less impact it will have on your later life. Be brave: act now.