Osteoporosis is a common occurrence in post menopausal women as well as men over fifty. For women, the breakage of bone occurs within a couple years of menopause especially due to reduction in estrogen levels. Pain, spinal deformity and fractures often present after years of bones erosion however, there are things you can do to overcome it.
What is Osteoporosis?
It is one of the most common forms of arthritis as a result of cartilage wearing away from the joints. This cartilage is responsible for the smooth gliding of joints, and once it begins to deteriorate, the sufferer is left with pain, joint swelling and inflammation, and even deformity.
A healthy bone is comprised of dense like a brick spongier mid section with many holes in it. These holes are collagen connective fibers which give our bone its flexibility. Collagen is primarily a protein which is made from amino acids. To have healthy bones, you will want plenty of these collagen tissues to store calcium, vitamin (vitamin D, K and B), phosphorus and other minerals (such as magnesium, phosphorus, fluorite, silica and boron) to create strong bones. Collagen also binds our cells together and gives healthy looking skin instead of thin and wrinkled skin.
Our bodies can produce some of our needs but we still need additional amounts from our foods and supplements including lysine and praline. Sufficient combined supplementation of these will allow our bodies to produce abundance of healthy collagen which is needed by the connective tissue to create strong cartilage and bones. Vitamin C is also required to create collagen.
How does osteoporosis occur?
Our skeletons provides support for our muscles and protection for our vital organs; our bones are also a storehouse of calcium and other minerals. They are made up of a smooth, tough outer layer of dense bone, a spongier mid section and a soft core of marrow where new cells are made to rebuild our bones. Our bones are constantly changing because our bodies depend on a steady supply of calcium and other minerals to function properly. When we don’t get enough nutrition from our regular diet our bodies break down and rebuild bone to meet our needs. This is called “bone remodeling.”
Many things can influence bone remodeling, like injury, illness, medications, exercise, diet, hormonal changes, menopause, low estrogen levels, smoking, heavy drinking and of course the normal aging process. When the body requires more calcium than we are able to consume, or if we are not able to store the calcium we consume adequately it is leached from the spongy mid layer of our bones. They gradually lose their density making them weak and porous, and more prone to fractures. This is osteoporosis.
Symptoms of osteoporosis
Common symptoms of osteoporosis include:
- Bone mass reduction and increases in porosity
- Joint pain and back pain that tends to be worse when rising in the morning
- Joint pain, swelling and inflammation that occur during periods of activity; pain is greatest during times of movement, and then lessens significantly during periods of rest
- Feeling a “grinding” sensation when a joint is moved
- Weakness, loss of mobility and flexibility
- Bone fractures typically in the vertebral column, the hip and the wrist
- Acute back pain and spinal cord compression
- Height loss and unsteady gait
- Kyphosis or Dowager’s hump, also called hunchback or roundback
Osteoporosis and estrogen
Over-trained young women, who are striving to lose weight by exercising too much and eating too little, are at risk of low estrogen and osteoporosis. This happens because excessive training may lead to low production of estrogen hormones, a primary female sex hormone and is also involved in bone development. Low estrogen levels is one of the leading causes of osteoporosis among women. Even if the bones do not break in when one is young, low estrogen during the peak years of bone building (preteen and teen years) may never be regained and affect individuals for the rest of their lives.
The natural decline in hormonal production i.e. low estrogen level in menopausal women is another main contributing factor. When women reach menopause and their ovaries stop producing estrogen, the bone loss accelerates.
Besides contributing to osteoporosis, hormonal changes are also related to hair loss during menopause. Read all about it in Can menopause cause hair loss?.
Osteoporosis and menopause
Now let’s take a look at how is menopause related to osteoporosis?
Menopause increases the risk of developing osteoporosis. The loss of bone mass begins approximately at age 40. It is inherent in aging for both men and women, but women are more susceptible to it. Because a woman’s bone density is less than that of a man, this allows more time for the bone to age. This is added by the fact that after menopause (which every women will going through), there is an acceleration of five to eight years at which point it returns to its normal age-related rate (mainly because of hormonal changes). The bone loss in menopausal women can accelerate to an average of one to two percent a year.
It is after menopause that the level of the female hormone estrogen in a woman’s body decreases sharply. Estrogen is a hormone that is produced in the ovaries and works in harmony with a selection of steroid hormones. It is a hormone that is important in protecting the skeleton by helping the body’s bone forming cells to keep working and preventing the bones from losing their mineral content which may accelerate bone loss and weaken accordingly. So after menopause, this protection can be considered lost as the level of estrogen decreases. This may continue for a period of up to eight years at which point it returns to its normal age-related age.
For pre-menopausal women, cigarette smoking decreases estrogen level, thereby decreasing bone mass.
While osteoporosis can lead to loss of height and tiny fractures, woman are also vulnerable to fractures of the hip. Therefore, it is important to take precautionary measures such as proper diet, exercise and vitamins to prevent the loss of bone mass. Further, your doctor may advise you to take a bone density test to determine just how much bone loss has occurred.
The bone density test encompasses taking an X-ray scan and photon absorptiometry tests which can measure the bone density of your lumbar spine, because the spine is usually the first area to experience loss of bone mass. In addition, mineral drops are noted within the tests when Osteoporosis is present as well. You probably don’t need a special scan to identify bone loss if you have lost height each year. However, if you have just begun perimenopause or are in the stages of menopause, it may be a good idea to have the test done now.
If after the test you are told your bone loss is minimal, you may decide to do nothing. But it is still important to keep your bones strong and to therefore, you may wish to keep tabs on the progress of bone loss through tests. If, on the other hand, you are told that your rate of bone loss is significant, you may want to take a proactive approach to prevent osteoporosis from ever happening, especially when you reach your post menopause phase.
Osteoporosis Medical Treatment
Because of the advancement of medical technology, bone fractures that are caused by osteoporosis can now be treated. These treatments emphasize pain relief which is achieved through adequate bed rest, the use of analgesics, and orthodontic support. Many patients require opioid analgesics for pain relief and properly fitted braces for effective osteoporosis treatment. As the pain caused by acute fracture subsides, patients may continue to experiencing times of mechanical pain and limited mobility. When these symptoms persist, a carefully planned and supervised program should be done after three to four months for pain relief. Evaluation and management of osteoporosis are integral parts of appropriate fracture management.
In addition, doctors might prescribe one of the following medications or hormone treatment for osteoporosis, depends on your age, health, gender, and the cause of your loss bone:
- Management includes supplements, which are commonly Vitamins D, C, calcium, specifically calcium carbonates-os-cal. Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator (SERM) to prevent and treat osteoporosis such as raloxifen and tamoxifen.
- Alendronate and risedronate to prevent the loss of bone mass and increase the bone density, usually to treat male patients.
- Hormone treatment for osteoporosis including estrogen supplements for menopause women, such as estrace or estradiol, to replace the loss of estrogen and reverse the effects of osteoporosis is added also.
- To treat the pain, doctors often prescribe NAID-based prescriptions, such as Dolobid, Naprosyn, Naproxen, Motrin, Ibuprofen, Voltaren, and so on.
- Vertebroplasty procedure to treat fracture in the back-bone, it is used to stabilize the bone.
- The patient is recommended to join in activities, only when tolerated.
- Doctors might prescribe Boniva® (ibandronate sodium), a once-monthly tablet for postmenopausal osteoporosis. However, it is not suitable for people who have low blood calcium, cannot sit or stand for at least 60 minutes, have severe kidney disease or are allergic to Boniva.
A diet must be maintained when osteoporosis is present. In addition, the doctor monitors the musculoskeletal system, since disorders can cause additional interruptions. Doctors will generally monitor the patient’s activities, as well as limit their activities, since Osteoporosis can cause fractures or breakage of bones. The problem will lead to further complications. At this time, there are no surgical interventions to fight Osteoporosis, yet Osteoporosis is common, which experts are diligently searching for cures.
When doctors consider Osteoporosis, they must also weed out Osteogenic Sarcoma, or Osteosarcoma, as well as Gouty arthritis, Osteoarthritis, and related disease. Many of the disease challenge doctors, since their symptoms are similar in comparison.
Osteoporosis, menopause and estrogen levels all related closely. If you were recently diagnosed with osteoporosis, whether you are already in your menopausal stage or not, you may benefit from correcting the posture and training the body mechanics. Your doctor probably recommended that you do this, otherwise inquire within. There’s also medications such as estrogen supplementation and Boniva for postmenopausal women that might be prescribed by your doctor to help with your condition.