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Osteoporosis Treatment

Manage Osteoporosis Symptoms to Stay Whole and Healthy

Osteoporosis affects over 10 million Americans over the age of 50, with women four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. Another 34 million Americans over the age of 50 have low bone mass (osteopenia) and therefore have an increased risk for osteoporosis.

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a bone disease in which bones begin to lose mass, becoming porous and brittle. The bones most often affected are the hips, spine, and wrists. People with osteoporosis are at greater risk for bone fractures and breaks.

Osteoporosis is a serious, common condition that most often affects postmenopausal women. There is no cure for osteoporosis, meaning the only way to treat it is to manage the symptoms. Thankfully, there are several ways to live a safe, injury-free life even with osteoporosis.

Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

Estrogen deficiency is one of the main causes of bone loss in women during and after menopause. Women may lose up to 20 percent of their bone mass in the five to seven years following menopause.

Although the exact medical cause is unknown, a number of factors contribute to osteoporosis, including the following:

  • Aging. Bones become less dense and weaker with age.

  • Race. White and Asian women have the highest risk factor, although any race may develop the disease.

  • Body weight. Obesity is associated with a higher bone mass, therefore people who weigh less and have less muscle are more at risk for developing osteoporosis.

  • Lifestyle factors. The following lifestyle factors may increase a person's risk of osteoporosis:

    • Physical inactivity

    • Caffeine

    • Excessive alcohol use

    • Smoking

    • Dietary calcium and vitamin D deficiency

  • Certain medications. If you are taking prescription medications, ask your doctor about side effects.

  • Family history of bone disease. If there is a history of disease in your family, you too may be at risk.

The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) recommendations suggest that women's lifestyle practices should be reviewed regularly by their doctors, and that practices that help to reduce the risk for osteoporosis should be encouraged. Also, NAMS recommends that a woman's risk for falls should be evaluated at least once a year after menopause has occurred. An additional recommendation is that a woman's height and weight should be measured annually, and she should be assessed for kyphoses--development of a rounded humped spines--and back pain.

Osteoporosis Symptoms

Osteoporosis is often called the silent disease because people with osteoporosis may not develop any symptoms. Some may have pain in their bones and muscles, particularly in their back. Occasionally, a collapsed vertebra may cause severe pain, decrease in height, or deformity in the spine. The symptoms of osteoporosis may resemble other bone disorders or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

Osteoporosis Diagnosis

At our facilities, we use sophisticated dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry – known as DXA or DEXA scans – to measure bone density. It measures the amount of calcium and other minerals in a bone by passing X-rays with two different energy levels through the bone.

This test helps us determine the severity of a person’s osteoporosis and plan out the most effective, least invasive form of treatment.

You may need to consult an orthopedic doctor to learn about maintaining your bone health.

Osteoporosis Treatment

Depending on how severe the condition is, osteoporosis treatment may be as minimal as dietary changes, or extensive enough to warrant hormone therapy. Our physicians will work with you to help decrease pain, prevent fractures and minimize any further bone loss. Below is an overview of various osteoporosis treatments that orthopedic doctors may recommend.

Eat a Calcium-Rich Diet

A calcium-rich diet will likely be a component of any osteoporosis plan, but may be the only change you need to make if your condition is mild.

Our bodies need calcium but do not produce it, meaning most of the calcium we receive comes from food. If we are not consuming enough calcium, the body will start taking some from bone.

As bone tissue is always regenerating, this is not normally an issue, but osteoporosis prevents new bone from growing, meaning a calcium-rich diet is important to prevent our bodies from absorbing too much bone.

Your doctor may suggest that you take supplements, including Vitamin D, to keep your bones strong.

Exercise

Physical activity is a great way to keep bones strong. If you don’t get enough exercise, your doctor may recommend that you walk more and do other weight-bearing exercises such as weight training, jogging, stair climbing, playing tennis or dancing.

Exercise is an effective method for preventing osteoporosis, and can also play a role in your treatment if you already have the disease.

Given the increased risk of injury with osteoporosis, it is important to discuss a suitable exercise plan with your doctor before jumping into a new routine.

Cut Down on Alcohol and Caffeine Intake

Caffeine and alcohol can have negative effects on bone density. Excessive alcohol consumption can interfere with the balance of calcium in the bones, and may cause hormone deficiencies that can affect proper bone formation. It may also increase levels of cortisol, which can both decrease bone formation and raise the risk of bone deterioration. People who drink excessively are also more likely to fall and break a bone. Hip fractures and spine fractures, for example, are more common in people who drink heavily. Caffeine has also been shown to affect bone density.

Quit Smoking

People who smoke absorb less calcium in their diets, which affects bone density. Smoking may also increase risk of bone fractures, and make it harder to heal if there is a fracture. Quit smoking or vaping today.

Take Osteoporosis Medication

There are several osteoporosis medications available. Side effects from these medications may include nausea and heartburn. For some patients, these medications may need to be administered directly to the bloodstream through an IV or yearly injection.

Hormone Therapy

Estrogen plays a role in bone strength and density. Increasing estrogen levels can help prevent osteoporosis from worsening.

This treatment is generally used as a last resort for particularly severe cases of osteoporosis as it can also increase a patient’s risk of blood clots and certain types of cancer. If used appropriately and carefully monitored, however, it can go a long way in preventing injuries.

Prevent Falls

Falls are likely to result in broken bones when people have osteoporosis. Often, osteoporosis is not diagnosed until a person experiences a fracture due to weakened bones. This is common in older adults.

Prevent falls in older adults by installing hand railings or assistive devices in the bathroom or shower.

Preventing Osteoporosis

Many of the prevention methods for osteoporosis are similar to the methods used to treat it.

Maintaining a healthy weight, managing diet and exercise, and quitting smoking are ways to improve bone health and reduce your risk of getting osteoporosis.

If someone in your family has osteoporosis, you may have increased risk factors.

If you are concerned about a genetic predisposition or have other reasons to believe you may be at risk for osteoporosis consult an orthopedist. Don’t wait.

You can discuss your osteoporosis concerns with a knowledgeable orthopedist today. Contact us and start developing a prevention plan for yourself and your family.
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