Of all the ways osteoporosis affects your quality of life, the social consequences may be the least recognized. Managing social limitations is much easier when you're surrounded by supportive family members and friends. People with large social networks seem to manage their osteoporosis more effectively than those with smaller networks.
Most of us feel the need to be on both sides of a helping relationship. In addition to receiving help, we want to help others. Throughout life, there are times when we help others, and then there are times when we must rely on others for help. It is important to keep relationships balanced by not having one person giving or receiving significantly more than the other.
Osteoporosis can prevent traditional social exchanges of support. Although many people with osteoporosis want to return the favors that they receive, they may be prevented by pain and activity limitations. Instead, they need to identify other ways to reciprocate. Furthermore, their friends and family need to recognize the importance of letting their loved ones with osteoporosis contribute to their relationships in practical ways.
Osteoporosis can affect people’s closest relationships as well as more distant ones. Tension can build between spouses as both try to cope with the limitations of osteoporosis, and intimate relations are often strictly limited or stopped altogether due to the fear of causing fractures. A wife may feel that she puts herself at risk of breaking a bone during any sexual encounter, and a husband may not want to take the chance that he will cause a bone to break. In time, couples may find themselves drifting apart. This topic is rarely covered and physicians may be uncomfortable making recommendations in this area. Couples can look for ways to achieve intimacy without increasing fracture risk. Many physical therapists have been trained to help with this issue and can offer advice. Some hospitals offer “back schools,” taught by physical therapists that will address this concern.
People with osteoporosis often want to understand and learn as much as possible about the disease. They look for information and help to improve their health and quality of life. It is not unusual for some people to have worries and concerns about living with osteoporosis. Some people may even feel alone or fearful. Programs of support provide a way to learn more about osteoporosis while providing an opportunity to share information, feelings and goals with others in a similar situation.