Osteoporosis in Your Spine: What to Do

You’ve probably heard a lot about osteoporosis in your lifetime, from warnings to drink your milk in elementary school to being lectured by your doctor as an adult.

Here in the Chattanooga area, we take osteoporosis seriously—and not just general osteoporosis. It is possible to get osteoporosis in only one region of the body. Take the spine for example. How do you get it and what do you do to prevent it—or treat it?

How Osteoporosis Works

Not everyone with osteoporosis has it in every bone. In fact, many patients can have it just in the jaw, for example, or just the lower (lumbar) spine. And contrary to popular belief, women aren’t the only ones who can get it. Men are also susceptible. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the reason most men don't consider themselves at risk for osteoporosis is that most women who get it, do so becuase of rapid bone loss after menopause. However, by age 65 or 70, men and women lose bone mass at the same rate. So don't disregard this post if you're a man--you can get it in your twilight years just as easily as women.

But how does this this low bone density disease occur? Your Chattanooga, TN chiropractor will tell you that genetics play a large role. Most people who get osteoporosis are older Caucasian women with small body frames. Also according to the NIH, it’s not just about eating enough calcium and vitamin D, either. Osteoporosis is most common in certain demographics (older white women with small frames who have a family history of the disease)—which is something you can’t change. But other factors are involved, like low levels of estrogen and missed menstrual cycles; smoking; drinking alcohol; anorexia; lack of exercise; and low intake of calcium and vitamin D.

Since bone is a living tissue that replaces itself over time— your entire skeleton is replaced every 10 years—this makes bone density loss possible. When the body does not produce enough new bone, or too much existing bone is absorbed by the body, osteoporosis occurs. You do not feel osteoporosis happening, and usually only know you have it through a bone density scan or when a weakened bone fractures and you feel pain.

Preventing Osteoporosis in the Spine

Since you can’t feel osteoporosis happening, and since it’s such a slow process for anyone who does have it until they are past middle age (bone density loss occurs rapidly after menopause), you hear over and over again how important it is to drink your milk when you’re young. But when it comes to your spine, getting enough calcium and vitamin D isn’t the only thing you can do (and your Chattanooga, TN chiropractor will tell you that you can also get these vitamins through healthy foods like spinach and fish).

Weight-bearing exercise is key for preventing spinal osteoporosis. Spine-health.com tells us this means exercise that you perform while standing up and working the bones and muscles against gravity. This type of exercise actually increases bone density in the spine. They recommend 20-30 minutes of these exercises three or four times per week to be effective in preventing osteoporosis in the spine.

Treating Osteoporosis in the Spine

Finally, in treating osteoporosis in the spine in Chattanooga, there are a few things you can do. You can take medications that stop the loss of bone density. And you can do exercises to strengthen your back muscles (thereby taking pressure off the vertebrae themselves) and learn new body mechanics. The National Osteoporosis Foundation tells us that if you bend backward or lean back instead of leaning forward, you will reduce stress on the front of the spine. You should also avoid heavy lifting and extreme twisting of your spine. This is all in an effort to prevent fractures in the vertebrae, which is the painful part of osteoporosis of the spine.

Have you ever been diagnosed with osteoporosis?

So while your elementary school teachers and adult doctors in Chattanooga, TN were right about milk, that’s not the only thing you can do to keep osteoporosis from restricting your movement later in life. Keep up a good diet and exercise regularly. And remember to continue doing weight-bearing exercises into your old age.

Have you or has anyone you love been diagnosed with osteoporosis in Chattanooga? What are they doing about it? Tell us your story in the comment box below!

Categories: Spine Health

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