Osteoporosis/Loss Of Bone Mass

The cause of osteoporosis is generally due to bone resorption and the malfunction of the body to renew the formation of new bone tissue. Factors that play a role start in our early formative years and can be traced to poor dietary habits and a sedentary lifestyle. Habits such as smoking, excessive use of alcohol and caffeine drinks such as coffee and colas will deplete the bones of healthy bone mass. Osteoporosis is more common in women than in men; generally in middle-aged individuals, and is greater in whites than in blacks. In women the bone loss is greater during the 4 or 5 years after menopause.

A hormonal factor may play a significant role at this crucial time. The fact that at this time in their lives the individual reduces their activities and becomes more sedentary places them at risk. An individual with osteoporosis may not have symptoms during the onset of the disease. Should the individual become aware that something is wrong, there may only be the hint of an ache in the bones, most often in the back. It could be at this time that a crush fracture in a vertebra may be caused by a minor trauma, seemingly of no consequence and usually around the mid, or lower vertebrae. Should crush fractures occur in more than one vertebra, the individual will develop a dorsal hyperlordosis (a rounded back), and an exaggerated curve of the neck.

At the onset when this occurs, the individual generally complains of an acute pain lasting for several days which later becomes a dull chronic ache in the mid and lower back. "Hip and Colles'" fractures, when occurring in an elderly individual, is generally due to a pre-existing osteoporosis. Other frequent sites of fracture are the wrists and ribs. During early childhood and up to age 35, the bone mass is regenerated faster than bone mass is lost. After age 35 especially, it is necessary to correct any factors that may be important in alleviating the things that cause the loss of healthy bone tissue and the rebuilding of new bone tissue faster than the loss. This rate of bone loss and the rate that osteoporosis develops are related to many factors as previously stated, and faulty body chemistry. Hormonal factors, the body's ability to absorb and utilize calcium, and the amount of physical activity, play a most significant role. Our eating habits and the amount of exercise in our early years, help to strengthen the bones and thus prevent the formation of osteoporosis.

Smoking and drinking large amounts of alcohol, coffee and colas that contain large amounts of caffeine as previously mentioned are risk factors that play a negative role. Fortunately, many factors that have predisposed the individual to develop osteoporosis can be alleviated to a great extent. Dietary factors that have been neglected in the early years should be improved. A diet rich in calcium-rich foods must be included in our dietary regime. Foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, green leafy vegetables are such foods. For those who are lactose intolerant, there is lactose free milk and other dairy foods. And again I must advise that smoking be entirely eliminated, along with large amounts of alcohol and caffeine drinks. A small amount of coffee and alcohol may be permitted. At this time a good calcium supplement (1000 to 1200mgs) along with vitamin D (1000mgs) should be included in the daily diet, also aids in Bone & Connective Tissue repairs.

In severe cases check with your physician who will do a complete physical, with x-rays, blood tests, etc. If a hormonal insufficiency is found, hormonal therapy may be instituted. Even if hormonal therapy is instituted, vitamin and mineral supplementation is very important. If sudden severe episodes occur, with acute onset of back pain, such as when a crush fracture or sprains and strains, falls or other trauma may develop in a disabling condition, we must institute supportive measures. The use of an orthopedic support can be a very valuable adjunct. Other very valuable measures are analgesics, and when muscle spasm is present, heat and massage can be of great value. At this time you must avoid heavy lifting (nothing over 5 lbs.), or stretching for objects above your head. Getting in and out of your car in the proper way is important in not adding insult to injury.

At this time I would be remiss in not mentioning the role of exercise. For those who live a sedentary lifestyle, this can be THE MOST important decision you can make. A good exercise program will help strengthen your muscles, especially your back and abdominal muscles that support your back. Strengthening the flabby back and abdominal muscles can be the greatest factor in the prevention of future fractures and lifelong pain and suffering. It will also restore your balance, flexibility and vitality. When you have decided that it is time to start an exercise program, you must also decide to dedicate yourself in continuing with the program. Then, your health will improve; you will feel more vital and vigorous. The exercise will also add normal bone tissue and strengthen the entire skeletal structure of the body.

DR. Emanuel M. Cane, D.C.

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