Osteoporosis: An Overview
Osteoporosis is a disease process that is characterized by deteriorating and thinning bones. It results in fragile, easily fractured bones caused by a generalized weakening of the bone tissues.
While bones unaffected by osteoporosis have a firm mesh covered by a strong outer layer, those that are affected by the disease will begin to develop larger holes within the inner mesh. This weakens the bones to the point that even a minor fall or bump can cause them to break.
An average of one out of every two women fifty and older in the UK will experience fractures and breaks because of osteoporosis, affecting nearly 30 to 50% of women. While most osteoporosis cases are female, men are also susceptible to it but at a much lower rate; an estimated one out of five men, or 15 to 30%, over the age of fifty are also at risk for breakage resulting from osteoporosis. Having a prior fracture or break due to osteoporosis increases your odds up to 86% that you will suffer another. Your risk of a vertebral fracture is doubled with a bone mass decrease of only 10%.
Unfortunately, many people who are at high risk for osteoporosis and have already suffered a fracture or break are never properly identified, and their underlying disease process is not treated. Osteoporosis screenings are the first step in assessing your risk factors.
Osteoporosis Strikes in Silence
There are no real signs or symptoms of osteoporosis. Most people are completely unaware that they have the disease until they have already broken a bone and are being x-rayed in a chiropractic clinic.
Those affected with osteoporosis can break a bone from simply stumbling and bumping the bone, experiencing what would be considered a very minor fall, or in some very advanced cases, simply sneezing can cause a fracture. Some may experience a break spontaneously, seemingly completely at random.
Osteoporosis: Are You at Risk?
While osteoporosis may not exhibit any telltale signs or symptoms, there are many risk factors for developing the disease. Some of these are:
- Family history; research has shown that there are some genetic factors in developing osteoporosis.
- Sedentary lifestyles: Decreases in muscular and neurological functions from inactivity are shown to have an increase in the risk of developing osteoporosis.
- Coexisting disease processes: Rheumatoid arthritis, anorexia nervosa, and diseases such as Gluten intolerance, Chron’s, Celiac, or other diseases that affect the digestive system are risk factors.
- Small frame: If you are thinner or have a smaller frame, you are at an increased risk for osteoporosis. Research has proven that your birth weight can also be a factor, since your bone density in adulthood is determined by your weight as an infant.
- Female patients: 1 out of 3 females will develop osteoporosis.
- Age: Most osteoporosis cases will affect those fifty and over.
- Past fractures and breaks: Having a history of broken bones plays a role in developing osteoporosis.
- Smoking: Smoking leads to a decrease in bone density, resulting in fractures. This risk will increase with age.
- Race or Ethnicity: Your race may increase your risk factors, with Asian, Hispanic or Latino, and Caucasian being the most commonly affected. African Americans are also affected at a lower rate.
- Low Estrogen Levels: Lowered estrogen levels greatly increases the odds of developing osteoporosis. Some conditions that can cause low estrogen levels include:
- Pituitary problems
- Surgically removed ovaries
- Amenorrhea from extreme exercise or a disease process like Anorexia Nervosa
- Men are at risk, too, when they have low levels of testosterone and estrogen
- Dietary imbalances: Too little calcium or vitamin D, or too much sodium, protein and caffeine can increase your risk factors for developing osteoporosis.
- Excessive alcohol consumption: Hip fracture risks are doubled by consuming four or more units of alcohol a day.
- Medications: Some medicines like cortico-steroids used in the treatment of chronic inflammation and asthma increases the risk of bone fractures significantly, with estimates of between 30 to 50% of patients on these medicines experiencing a break. Females and male patients on cortico-steroid therapy will double their risk of a hip fracture. Other medications, such as seizure medications known as anti-convulsant, will also increase the risk of osteoporosis and related fractures.
While osteoporosis cannot be cured, treatment options are available and focus on prevention and lessening the effects of this devastating disease.
- Chiropractic treatments: Chiropractic care seeks to identify patients who are at risk for breaks and fractures. Having chiropractic therapy can lower the risks of developing a fracture from 8% down to 2% when a patient is identified and treated prior to any previous fractures.
- A calcium and vitamin D fortified diet is an important factor in keeping your bones strong. Exposure to sunlight will also increase your bone mass density, helping you increase the vitamin D levels in your bones.
- Exercise, along with fall prevention education, are both important in preventing breaks and maintaining healthy bones. An exercise program that involves low weights is helpful, but any exercise you do will help you live a more active lifestyle. Dancing, golf, gardening, or even walking will help you keep your bones strong. Avoid high impact exercise routines if you’ve been previously diagnosed with osteoporosis.
Eat for Healthier Bones
A healthy diet is one of the key factors in helping to lower your risk of developing this disease. Your diet should be varied and include sources of vitamin D and calcium, such as fish, meats, cheeses, milk and many vegetables. While meats and dairy are great sources of calcium, you don’t necessarily need to eat them to get enough. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, carbonated beverages, and salt in your healthy diet.
Vegetables, grains, herbs and grasses in addition to five servings of fruit per day give your body lasting energy while giving it the key nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Plants contain methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM, a naturally occurring sulfur that promotes healthy joints. MSM has key anti-inflammatory factors, reducing the stiffness of soft tissue cells.
Your body needs constant nourishment; it is busy regenerating skin cells every 30 days and bone cells every 120. Proper nutrition keeps these cells regenerating by supplying them with proteins, minerals, amino acids and other necessary vitamins. This is beneficial in relieving pain and inflammation in the joints and can stop further damage from developing. They will decrease the need for NSAID’s in the osteoarthritic patient, which results in less stomach irritation.
A healthy diet will also help you to lose weight, decreasing your odds of osteoporosis related bone fractures.
You can find MSM, calcium, and vitamin supplements to help you increase your bone health, as well. If you are a smoker, you are increasing your odds of bone fractures significantly, so it is very important to quit smoking.
Because healthy bones in childhood plays a key factor in bone density in adulthood, it is important to teach children to make healthy choices and exercise. Your bone density by age thirty sets the trend for the health of your bones as you age, so early prevention is vital.
Osteoporosis Diagnosis and Treatment
While no doctor can cure osteoporosis, Chiropractors can reduce the risk of bone breakage, especially as they relate to compression fractures of the spine. Additionally, they are a valuable source of information in preventing bone density loss and fractures. Many patients may not realise they have osteoporosis until the chiropractor identifies it on an x-ray relating to a broken bone. They will then send patients for further evaluation on the disease process. It is very difficult to know if you are one of the millions affected by osteoporosis unless your healthcare provider sends you for a test.
No matter your current age, it’s not too late to take steps to strengthen your bones, improve bone density, and prevent osteoporosis related fractures and breaks.