Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Chiropractic and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is an illness characterized by low-density bone structure. All bones contain small holes as part of their normal structure, but osteoporotic bones are thinner and have much larger cavities. This reduced bone mineral density (BMD) puts patients at much greater risk of fractures, as the skeleton becomes less able to bear weight. 

Fractures may be non-symptomatic but can also lead to chronic pain and disability. Vertebral fractures of the spine are among the most serious, as they can result in stooping, back pain and a profound loss of mobility. Hip fractures may also have grave consequences, including being unable to walk and greatly increasing chance of death in the years following a fracture due to pneumonia or deep vein thrombosis.

Bones are constantly undergoing a process of breakdown and reform. Osteoporosis may be caused by any of three factors: insufficient bone reformation, over-rapid breakdown (resorption), or inadequate early formation of the skeleton. Since estrogen suppresses bone resorption, it is not surprising that osteoporosis is commonly found in post-menopausal women, as the drop in estrogen levels that occur with menopause allows the breakdown process to occur unhindered. Although the condition is most common in older women, one fifth of osteoporosis patients are men and some cases affect younger people. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) estimates that 44 million Americans are affected by this disease, including over half of all people over the age of 50.

As it is a common misconception that spinal manipulation will further damage already fragile bones, many patients with osteoporosis are wary of seeking chiropractic treatment. Although it is certainly true that treatment may need to be modified, there is much that chiropractors can do to both manage and prevent the further progression of osteoporosis. Spinal compression is one of the more common symptoms that chiropractors treat, and they are knowledgeable in both diagnosing osteoporosis and offering advice on how to reduce the risk of fractures. 

Those with osteoporosis are not powerless in helping to slow the progression of their condition. Exercise in particular is very helpful in increasing the strength of the spine. However, it is all too easy to get into a negative cycle of exercising less once pain and mobility problems begin, with pain on movement taken as a sign to move less rather than more. Chiropractic treatment is helpful in breaking this cycle by supporting osteoporotic patients in using carefully chosen exercises, giving advice on posture and providing much-needed encouragement and psychological support. Osteoporosis is also known to be greatly affected by diet and lifestyle choices such smoking and alcohol consumption. Chiropractors are able to provide a wealth of advice in this area to give patients the best possible prognosis for their condition.

If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or have bones that break or fracture easily, chiropractic treatment may be a good option for your care. Even better than waiting until diagnosis, though, is to have regular chiropractic care throughout your adult life. Keeping young bones healthy is the best way of preventing osteoporosis from occurring at all, in addition to keeping you mobile well into later life.

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