Millions of Americans are at risk for osteoporosis – even more, will suffer from bone loss. Based on the 2004 report of the “Surgeon General on Bone Health and Osteoporosis”, half of all women over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis in their remaining lifetime. Some people get so osteoporotic that they break their bones with slight trauma and can die from the complications.
Our bones change all the time. Every day certain bone cells called osteoblasts bring calcium into bones to make them stronger. Other cells called osteoclasts carry calcium out of the bone which makes them weaker. Your bones are strongest when you are 20 years old. As you age, the osteoclasts do more work than the osteoblasts, so most people spend their entire lifetimes losing calcium from bones. In order to get stronger bones, we need three things; calcium, vitamin D, in the case of female estrogen deficiency, the female hormone. Only recently have doctors become aware of the high rate of vitamin D deficiency which weakens bones. Very few people meet their needs for vitamin D from food. The most important source is sunlight. Still, during the summer when sunlight is abundant, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was 59 percent. During the winter it was 69 percent. Warnings about skin cancers from sunlight exposure may have increased risk for osteoporosis
You are at increased risk for osteoporosis if you have a family history of osteoporosis, have a thin or small frame, are Caucasian or Asian, have blond hair or blue eyes, drink more than two alcoholic drinks a day, smoke, do not exercise, eat huge amounts of meat, use certain medications (steroids), have been diagnosed with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or are a woman who goes into menopause before age 52.
Osteoporosis has no symptoms in its early stages. Chronic pain has strong association with osteoporosis. This pain may be directly related to osteoporosis or may be related to changing posture. So, people suffering from severe chronic pain (especially women) will not ease the pain without addressing the osteoporosis. Later it may cause back pain and loss of height or a marked stooped posture as it progresses. Often the first visible sign of osteoporosis is a fracture in the spine, hip or wrist. Falls or even coughing, sneezing or bending over can lead to fractures in osteoporotic bones that can cause sharp and sudden pain.
Osteoporosis usually can be revealed through tests that measure bone density, such as a type of x-ray called a DEXA scan.
As a therapy clinic we deal with pain on a daily basis. Osteoporosis is not only a female thing, it affects men as well. As discussed earlier, it has strong association with pain, so without treating the cause a patient’s symptoms will not improve. Routinely, we incorporate our osteoporosis prevention regimen exercise in home exercise programs.
Osteoporosis is something preventable and treatable. We are often asked “I take calcium regularly so why I am I having this problem?” Though calcium deficiency can cause osteoporosis (The recommended daily calcium intake for adults age 19 to 50 is 1,000 mg per day. Men and women ages 50 and older need 1,200 mg of calcium each day.) Research shows that other things are responsible for osteoporosis beside just a deficiency in calcium.
Simple things can be done to maintain great bone health which is regularly not advertised. Lifestyle changes like eating a balanced diet rich in green, leafy vegetables, avoiding exposure to smoke and/or quit smoking, restricting alcohol to one drink per day, regular weight bearing exercises, (walking, stair climbing, dancing, or lifting weights) and resistance exercises are all effective in increasing the bone mineral density and strength of the spine in postmenopausal women which increases the effect of osteoblasts strengthening bones. If a person is in pain and does not exercise on a regular basis, our goal is to first relieve the pain so the patient can then begin a regular exercise routine to try and discourage further ailments. To be most effective, weight-bearing exercises should be done for 45 to 60 minutes at least 3- 4 days a week, but our osteoporosis prevention regimen is targeted so most of the exercise can be done in 20 minutes. We do not recommend jogging out doors or treadmill exercises because high impact exercise can worsen the problem. Low impact weight bearing exercises are the best including weight lifting or weight training. If you stop exercising, your bones weaken and may be more likely to break. Walking also increases bone mineral density of the hip.
Beside lifestyle changes and taking a supplement regularly, it is necessary to keep track of bone density depending upon risk factors. People with known risk factors for osteoporosis should have regular screenings. In select cases, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) is given to women to slow bone loss from osteoporosis. However, HRT is not given just to prevent osteoporosis. Because of the associated risk, other factors will determine if HRT is right for you. Speak with your physician for further information about that.
Bisphosphonates such as Fosamax block osteoclasts from taking calcium out of bones, while they leave osteoblasts alone, for a net gain of calcium taken in bones. The first large, long-term study of Fosamax, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (March 11, 2004) showed continued bone-strengthening benefits after ten years with no significant side effects.
Though osteoporosis is a common condition affecting millions of people in a debilitating way, small lifestyle changes and a little education will go a long way. We at Synergy Therapeutic Group are determined to educate people about the risk and prevention of osteoporosis. Our proactive attitude is aimed to identify and treat individual risk factors before it’s too late.
My shoulder and back pain was about a 10 when I started therapy. My shoulder and back are now a 0. I could not get up when my pain was at its worst but now I’m feeling very good and can do any activity. Thank you! (Julie, Carbondale, IL)