Many patients experiencing back or joint pain will ask if it is caused by osteoporosis. This common question highlights just how high a profile the disease has gained in recent years. Osteoporosis itself has no symptoms, including pain, but the loss of bone density can lead to degeneration of the spine, Dowager’s hump, and fragile bones susceptible to fracture. While osteoporosis is serious, it is fortunately a treatable condition.
Orthopedic surgeons only rarely treat osteoporosis, since the disease is readily combatted by diet, exercise, supplements, and when needed, medication. Post-menopausal women should – even in the absence of bone fractures – be tested for osteoporosis, and studies show that men are also increasingly at risk for the disease.
Why have fragility fractures caused by osteoporosis reached epidemic levels among aging Americans? The two primary causes are our modern diet and sedentary lifestyle.
Like eggshells and seashells, bones are made primarily of calcium, and are thus strong but inflexible, and with a loss of density, can break just like an eggshell. Merely adding calcium to the diet is not adequate, in that calcium uptake by the body is affected by other substances; for example, despite the fact that the largely fish diet of Eskimo women provides over 2000 mg of calcium a day, and even though exercise is a regular part of their life, they are known to have one of the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world. The excess fat and protein in their diet prevent calcium absorption.
So in addition to improving your diet, what’s way to avoid becoming a part of this “silent epidemic”? Move! Our sedentary lifestyle is our worst enemy. As you grow older, continue to walk, dance, jump rope; play tennis, basketball, and golf; do Pilates and have fun in a Zumba class. All of these weight-bearing exercises help build strong bones.
Try some yoga too. Yoga will limber you up, and keeping limber is also great prevention, as nearly 80% of fragility fractures are a result of falls.
The longer you can stay flexible, balanced, and upright, the better chance you have of avoiding the pain – not of osteoporosis, but of the debilitating breakage of bone they so often cause.
For treatment of osteoporosis, please consult your PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN, GYNECOLOGIST, or ENDOCRINOLOGIST. The orthopedic surgeons at Manhattan Orthopedic and Sports Medicine, ONLY TREAT
THE UNFORTUNATE CONSEQUENCES of this treatable disease.
Stay active and avoid fractures!