The goal of treatment is to keep osteopenia from progressing into osteoporosis.
The first part of treatment involves diet and exercise choices. The risk of breaking a bone when you have osteopenia is fairly small, so doctors don’t usually prescribe medicine unless your BMD is close to the osteoporosis level.
Your healthcare professional might talk to you about taking a calcium or vitamin D supplement, although generally it’s better to get enough of each from your diet.
To get enough calcium and vitamin D, eat dairy products such as cheese, milk, and yogurt. Some types of orange juice, breads, and cereals are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Other foods with calcium include:
- dried beans
- wild freshwater salmon
The goal for people with osteoporosis is 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day and 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D. However, it isn’t clear whether this is the same for osteopenia.
Walking, jumping, or running at least 30 minutes on most days will strengthen your bones if you have osteopenia, are a young adult, or are a premenopausal female.
These are all examples of weight-bearing exercises, which means you do them with your feet touching the ground. While swimming and biking may help your heart and build muscles, they don’t build bones.
Even small increases in BMD can significantly reduce your risk for fractures later in life.
However, as you get older, it becomes harder for you to build bone. With age, your exercise should emphasize muscle strengthening and balance as well.
Walking is still great, but now swimming and biking count, too. These exercises can help reduce your chances of falling.
Talk with your doctor about the best and safest exercises for you.
In addition to walking or other exercise, try these strengthening exercises:
Hip abductors strengthen your hips and improve balance. Do this 2 to 3 times a week.
- Stand tall with your right side facing a chair, holding onto the back of the chair with right hand.
- Put left hand on top of your pelvis and raise left leg to the side, keeping it straight.
- Keep toe pointed forward. Don’t raise so high that your pelvis rises.
- Lower leg. Repeat 10 times.
- Change sides and do the same exercise 10 times with your right leg.
Toe and heel raises
Toe raises and heel raises strengthen lower legs and improve balance. Do them each day. Wear shoes for this exercise if you have pain in your feet.
- Stand tall facing the back of a chair. Lightly hold onto it with one or both hands to stay balanced. Work up to being able to stay balanced using just one hand or a few fingers.
- Keep heels on ground and lift toes off floor. Keep standing straight with knees straight.
- Hold for 5 seconds. Then lower toes.
- Now rise up on toes and hold for 5 seconds.
- Slowly lower heels back to the floor and repeat 10 times.
Prone leg lifts
Prone leg lifts strengthen your lower back and buttocks and stretch the front of your thighs. Do this exercise 2 to 3 times a week.
- Lie on your stomach on a mat on the floor or on a firm bed, with a pillow underneath abdomen.
- Rest head on arms, or put a rolled-up towel under forehead. You can also put a rolled towel under each shoulder and under your feet if you like.
- Take a deep breath, gently press your pelvis against the pillow, and squeeze your buttocks.
- Slowly raise one thigh off the floor, with knee slightly bent. Hold for a count of 2, keeping foot relaxed.
- Lower thigh and hip back to ground.
- Repeat 10 times, then do 10 with the other leg.