October 20th was World Osteoporosis Day

In the spirit of support for this increasingly common condition, we want to teach you a little about osteoporosis and how we can help.

So what is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a common condition which affects the bones; taken from the latin word osteo (bone) and porosis (to become porous).

Our bones are mainly made up of minerals (mainly calcium) and on the outside are hard and strong and bound together by collagen fibres. In the middle however, bones take on a more honeycomb appearance and tend to be softer.

Did you know that are bones are constantly renewing themselves? They are living tissue, not like what we see in the shops at Hallowe’en! As children, our bones renew very quickly but as we get older, this process takes longer.

We are at our prime in terms of bone density in our mid to late 20’s and starts to slow down after that, from our 40’s, our bone is broken down more quickly than it is renewed. This is how we lose our bone density.

Losing bone density will make our bones weaker and more likely to break.

Who does osteoporosis affect?

Osteoporosis is a very common condition and affects around 3 million people in the UK.

Women are more likely to be affected than men, 4 times more likely in fact! The reason for this is that the process of bone loss speeds up after menopause and also men usually reach higher levels of bone density before the process of bone loss begins.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

In short, osteoporosis is diagnosed by a scan which is done at the hospital.

Usually people have an injury first such as a wrist fracture or a fall and break their hip (actually this is incorrect and the hip fractures causing the person to fall) or a fracture to the vertebrae doing even small activities such as stepping off a kerb.

The reason that osteoporosis isn’t diagnosed sooner as that we cannot tell that our bones are weakening! This process takes many years before a person will know. There may be some telltale signs and one that is commonly seen with osteoporosis is a loss of height.

The process which preceeds osteoporosis is the diagnosis of ‘osteopenia’ which means low bone density (for your age). If you have osteopenia, there are steps that you can take to help yourself to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis from developing later on.

Risk factors that contribute towards the development of osteoporosis include:

  • Taking steroids: These drugs can affect the production of bone reducing calcium absorption by the bone and increasing calcium excretion by the kidneys.
  • Low oestrogen levels: After menopause, oestrogen levels rapidly drop, the same after a hysterectomy. Ladies who have an early menopause or hysterectomy are at more risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Not enough weight bearing exercise: Muscle and bone health are related! A lack of exercise will cause muscles to waste and draw calcium out of your body. Exercising, particularly weight bearing exercise will increase muscle strength and bone health!
  • Poor diet habits: Making sure that you get enough calcium and getting outside to take in some vitamin D or activate vitamin D supplements. Getting a variety of fresh foods for vitamins and minerals. Don’t forget that being underweight can also be detrimental to your health and pose a greater risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Poor lifestyle habits: Smoking lowers both oestrogen and testosterone hormones which cause a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. Drinking too much alcohol can also have an impact on how much bone your body can produce.
  • Family history: If you have. A close family member who has osteoporosis, be aware and knowing what you now know, you can help yourself the best that you can.

Receiving a diagnosis of osteoporosis can be scary but do not lose hope. It is possible to slow down or reverse the effects of osteoporosis, even after diagnosis!

How can osteoporosis be treated?

Your doctor will often prescribe medication to help with the bone density or bone building.

If you have come to visit us because of osteoporosis and have a fracture, this will have to be treated first!

Once you are well enough, out treatment plans include helping to reduce any muscle pain or tenderness by massage or chiropractic manipulation (both of which are very gentle, even for osteoporotic patients). We also prescribe exercise plans to help build muscle which in turn helps to build bone! This process is known as Wolff’s law which states that the bones adapt according to demands or stressed which are placed on them. Muscles attach to bone so when we build muscle, we stress the bone and in turn cause the bone to build- clever huh?!

The important thing is to start slow and seek advice from us. We will advise on what exercises to do and when according to your healing process in a careful and controlled way so that you do not risk reinjuring yourself.

Whilst chiropractic cannot cure osteoporosis, we can help to support you through helping with some of your symptoms, prescribing exercises and offering support and advice.

Some of our advice will come in terms of looking at your lifestyle and we will suggest changes to help you to build bone density again.

Unfortunately, osteoporosis is a chronic and progressive condition. Without treatment and monitoring, it can get worse over time, especially as we get older.

Ask us for more information and we can help to monitor and support your treatment plan, setting in place all of the right lifestyle measures that you need so that you can maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle for as long as possible!

Get in touch with us today and let us explain what we can do for you.