Research shows that one quarter of post-menopausal women eventually suffer from the compression or collapsing of some vertebrae, the bones that comprise the spinal column. Compression fractures can compromise one’s ability to function or cause disabling, chronic back pain.
Although these injuries are common, they usually can be prevented, delayed, or mitigated by adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes:
- Engage in resistance training, such as weight training and yoga, every other day, for 30-60 minutes per work-out ideally. There is good news for those who struggle to find those 30-60 minutes: a 10 year study that was completed in 2015 measured the bone mineral density (BMD) of 741 participants pre and post yoga regimen. Participants who routinely engaged in 12 yoga poses per day for just 12 minutes showed a reversal of osteoporotic bone loss.
- Do some weight bearing exercise like running, walking, or hiking, for at least 30 minutes per day. Weight bearing exercises work against gravity and stimulate bone cells to produce more bone.
- Get your Vitamin-D levels tested to ensure that they’re between 50-100 mg. If your levels are low, consider getting more sunshine (exposing some of your skin surface for about 15-30 minutes per day) and taking a supplement. Most people need between 3,000 to 5,000 iu of supplementation, but some may need up to 10,000 iu. If you take Vitamin-D supplementation, make sure to have your 25-hydroxy, Vitamin-D level checked two to four times per year.
- Check your calcium intake. Women should consume a total daily amount of calcium between 1200 and 1500 mg, with no more than 600 mg from supplemental calcium. Taking in more than this amount in supplemental form can lead to increased risk of heart disease and kidney stones. Good sources of dietary calcium are sardines, white beans, almonds, oranges, leafy greens, and dairy.
- Consider bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Before prescribing medications, I explore the possibility of using bioidentical estrogens and progesterone or estrogen analogues like Evista to prevent bone loss.
- Talk with your doctor before using medications to treat bone loss. Because most of these medications work by decreasing bone breakdown, this can potentially cause more brittle, unhealthy bone and result in fractures of the femur and jaw necrosis. I would reserve medication treatment for those with severe osteoporosis or history of pathological fractures. Before considering bisphosphonates, like Fosomax, Actonel, Boniva, Reclast, or a newer injectable, Prolia, it is recommended to complete any dental procedures before starting treatment for osteoporosis. Be sure to report any persistent jaw or thigh pain to your doctor immediately. Another treatment option is Miacalcin, a synthetic version of the hormone, calcitonin. It has been shown to build bone more so in the spine than in the hip, and it offers users some pain-relief. Two alternatives to the bisphosphonates and Miacalcin are Forteo and Tymlos, synthetic versions of a hormone called parathyroid hormone which also builds bone. Some of these drugs however, carry warnings about an increased risk of bone tumors called osteosarcoma.
- Ask your doctor about Bone-Density Imaging and “Urine osteomark.” It’s important to evaluate the effectiveness of any medications or hormone replacement therapies you may use because each individual inevitably has their own unique response to a given treatment. A urine test, called a “urine osteomark,” tracks bone breakdown, and therefore, is great way to measure the therapeutic benefits of treatment between bone-density-imaging studies.
In sum, there’s a lot you can do to keep your bones strong! So, do it!