As humans age, their bones become fragile and brittle, which sets the stage for painful fractures. Osteoporosis is a bone disease you do not want to acquire if you can avoid it.
C.N.S.: My mom has this very badly. She has lost six or more inches in height. She is getting the hump on her back. She’s experienced fractures for no reason other than walking down a flight of stairs. It scares me that I can get it, too, but the doctor has not put me on anything so far. I have had numerous dexa scans to keep an eye on it and so far it has not crossed whatever the minimum number is.
Post menopausal women are especially at risk because their bone concentration diminishes as a result of the ‘change of life’. Women are instructed to get sufficient amounts of calcium in their diet because this safeguards their bones. If you have always been calcium deficient this puts you at much higher risk of acquiring this condition later in life.
C.G., age 63: I started on meds at age 49. Last year I was taken off everything. My doctor said my body needed a holiday??? My orthopedic doctor advised me not to run over three miles a day. Ha ha. When I was first put on meds, I’d suffered a stress fracture. I have osteoporosis. My body responded well to the meds. I’m now at osteopenia. My husband and I are very concerned about being off the medicine. It will be a year in August. No recent fractures. I didn’t have any trouble with the meds. I blame a lot of my problem with the fact I can never remember to drink milk.
Bone is living tissue in a non-stop state of regeneration, regularly being absorbed and substituted. New bone is established and old bone breaks down. That’s the process.
When you were young, you made new bone faster than the old bone could break down, resulting in an increase in bone mass. However, if you are in the Baby Boomer category, as many of us are, you are past the pinnacle of bone production. Bone mass is disappearing faster than it is being made.
B.E.A., age 58: Yes, I have a minus four bone density. I get an IV infusion every year. It might have had something to do with my tibia breaking in a relatively minor fall. I also take extra oral calcium and vitamin D. I don’t have the dowager’s hump like some do, which is often a combination of posture nutrition and osteoporosis. Arthritis is sometimes involved, too.
A severe case of osteoporosis leads to kyphosis, which is a dowager’s hump. This causes the individual to be in a permanently bent-over position. A dowager’s hump is the result of vertebral compression fractures, which can occur quite easily if someone has osteoporosis. Something as simple as a sneeze can lead to a fracture.
When a vertebra is fractured, it acquires a curved shape, leading to deformity (the dowager’s hump), loss of height and chronic back pain.
J.B., age 80: My husband and I have each lost 3.5 inches in height. I take meds for it. He doesn’t. Yes, I have been diagnosed with osteoporosis and actually had compression fractures of the spine. The doctor told me they would heal themselves and they did.
Wedge fractures are also a serious concern. This type of break takes place when the front of the vertebra crumples. When the front of the vertebra breaks, while the backside stays in place, this makes the vertebra tip forward and the spine becomes misshapen. The dowager’s hump occurs when the area above the fractures move to the front.
When a wedge fracture occurs, the domino effect takes place. The vertebra tips to the front putting extra stress on other vertebra, prompting another wedge fracture. Each time a fracture occurs, the individual becomes more and more hunched over.
If you are concerned about your bone density and your risk for osteoporosis, bone density can be tested. The T-score (of the test) is your bone density compared to what is typically expected in a healthy young adult of your gender. T-score is the number of standard deviations (units) that your bone density is below or above average.
According to the Mayo Clinic, if your T-score is -1 or above, the density is normal. If your T-score is between -1 and -2.5 this is a sign of osteopenia, which means bone density is lower than normal and may lead to osteoporosis. If your bone density is 2.5 or more, you probably have osteoporosis.
Your Z-score means the number of standard deviations above or below what is considered normal for someone your sex, age, weight and racial or ethnic origin. If your Z-score is -2 or lower, it suggests something other than the aging process is causing atypical bone loss.
Certain exercises can help prevent dowager’s hump as well as assist in building stronger bones and better posture.
Try a chest stretch, which involves lying on a mat, knees bent, hands placed at the base of the skull. Gently push your elbows into the floor. This pulls under the armpits and across the chest. While doing this, make sure your shoulder blades and ribs remain on the mat. Release the elbows and then repeat.
Lying on your stomach with a pillow positioned under your pelvis, arms down to the sides, palms facing upward, slowly lift your head and shoulders, hold this position, lower, and repeat.
Do walking lunges, which help build hipbone density. Hopping is in fact, a good exercise. It increases hipbone density significantly.
When you do weight-bearing exercises this puts tension on muscles, which in turns puts pressure on your bones, which answer by making fresh, new bone. Weight bearing makes you work against gravity and include activities such as dancing, climbing stairs, tennis, jogging, hiking, walking and weight training.
If you have osteopenia or osteoporosis, avoid doing exercises that require forward bends. As always, if you have any questions about osteoporosis, talk with your physician.
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