Osteoporosis puts patients at risk for broken bones. Medications and alternative treatments are available.
What is Osteoporosis?
With osteoporosis, the bones become brittle, leading to potential fractures from even mild activities, such as coughing or bending over. The most common sites for a bone to break are the wrist, spine, and hip. Bones are constantly replaced by the body. The brittleness of osteoporosis is due to the fact that the body cannot create new bone fast enough to replace the old bones. Women who are post-menopausal, especially white and Asian women, are most at risk, although men and all races can develop osteoporosis. A healthy diet, weight-bearing exercises, and medications are prescribed treatments.1 Calcium and vitamin D are important for strong bones. Some of the prescriptions can “reduce the risk ofbroken bones” by reducing bone loss or rebuilding the bones. It is important to move safely to prevent fractures, work on posture exercises, and try to maintain one’s balance.2 Osteoporosis can lead to a curved spine and height loss.3
Medications for Osteoporosis
Fosamax is designed to improve bone density and reduce bone loss. It can reduce the risk of broken bones, especially in the spine and hip, “by about 50 percent over two to four years”. Boniva is a one-a-month pill or injection (every 3 months) that is said to reduce fractures in the spine “by about 50 percent over three years”. Actonel increases bone density, slows bone loss, and reduces the risk of fractures “by 35 to 45 percent over three years”. Reclast, a yearly IV dose, also increases bone density and reduces the incidence of fractures—by 41 percent for the hips, and by 70 percent for the spine. Osteoporosis can also be triggered by long term steroid use (glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis); therefore, most of the medications have also been approved for these patients as well. Side effects of bisphosphonates include muscle pain, bone pain, and joint pain. There may be digestive difficulties, such as heartburn, nausea, difficulty swallowing, esophageal irritation, and ulcer. Uveitis, or eye inflammation, can be triggered by these medications. People with low blood calcium and kidney disease should not take these prescriptions. Bone cell or tissue death, called osteonecrosis (ONJ), is more likely in cancer patients, who are given higher doses. Upper femur fractures may also result from these medications. There are some other types of medicines that are prescribed, such as Calcitonin (a synthetic hormone), Prolia injection, Evista (“a selective estrogen receptor modulator”), Forteo self-administered injection, and estrogen and hormone therapies (ET and HT). These also carry various risks, and some should only be taken for a couple of years.4
Massage Therapy and Chiropractic
Osteoporosis symptoms can be bothersome, and medications may not be right for every patient. Massage is a treatment option that is natural, and it can relieve symptoms. It is meant to enhance circulation and relieve tension. Massage is also beneficial for pain reduction and mental alertness. Osteoporosis patients recovering from a fracture often have muscle stiffness, and qualified therapists can provide relief.5 Improved circulation carries toxins out of the body. It is important to see a licensed and certified expert who has experience with patients who have osteoporosis.6 Chiropractic treatment is another option that is safe for patients with osteoporosis, if the patients don’t have bone diseases or fractures. Some of the therapies include ice, electrical stimulation, physical therapy, and more, in order to improve range of motion, joint mobility, muscle tone, and balance.7 Chiropractors can recommend dietary changes and supplements, as well as exercises and advice and tips to avoid falls.8