A Reflection on Osteoporosis

An osteoporotic elderly women in Japan.
An osteoporotic elderly woman in Japan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I watch a woman I know pass the days painfully, struggling to walk and go about her daily activities. Back bent, she moves slowly while doing her laundry, tidying up her space, and cooking her meals. Each time I ask her how she is, she replies she is sore today. Physiotherapy does not seem to help as she learns to live with the continual throb of pain in her back.

Osteoporosis is a debilitating disease and one which results in fragile and brittle bones. The body is unable to form enough new bone; and much of the old bone is reabsorbed by the body. Our bodies use calcium and phosphate to create bones. When you are older, the body reabsorbs the calcium and phosphate into your body, making the bones weaker.

Osteoporosis can also be caused by being bedridden, eating disorders, vitamin D deficiency, a lack of exercise, a lack of calcium in your diet, your family history and your body type. The risk factors that encourage osteoporosis are: drinking large amounts of alcohol, a low body weight, smoking, and too little calcium in the diet.

Bone magnetic resonance imaging in a Fabry pat...
Bone magnetic resonance imaging in a 72 year old patient with severe osteoporosis. Several vertebral body fractures can be seen. Courtesy: Dr Robert CARLIER, CHU Raymond Poincaré, Garches, France. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do you know when you are suffering from osteoporosis? Your bones fracture easily, you experience lower back pain due to fractures of spinal bones, you have lost height over time, you have a stooped posture, and you experience neck pain due to fractures of the spinal bones.

If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, you need to minimise the risk of falls: avoid walking on icy days, wear well-fitting shoes, and use bars in the bathtub. Exercise will help. Walking is the only exercise my friend is able to do – and that is done slowly.

I know that I am at the time of my life when I can still work towards avoiding a life filled with the pain and frustration of a weakening bone structure. Osteoporosis is one of the reasons why I exercise. The resistance exercises, in addition to the walking I do during the day, will help improve not only my muscle strength but also my bone mass. In addition I avoid drinking too much alcohol, I do not smoke, and I try to ensure I eat enough foods containing calcium.

Do you know anyone who suffers from osteoporosis? What has been their experience?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

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24 thoughts on “A Reflection on Osteoporosis

  1. My next door neighbour has it. She has been in and out of hospital, one of her shoulders is “frozen” so she is lopsided. She walks slowly, when she can manage it and looks much older than her years. She and her husband were living in their lovely house above the café but they had to move to the ground floor because she cannot negotiate the stairs anymore. So sad!

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    1. As you say, the worst symptom seems to be loss of mobility and confidence of movement. It must be extremely frustrating for her that her body does not move as quickly as her mind wants it to.

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  2. Your post is a beaitifully written, but grim reminder of just one aspect of being old.
    My in-laws are 87 and 90. They’ve been in an old age home for just over a year. We never wanted to do that, but life became impossible with them here at home. We had a live-in nurse for 6 months, to see if that would work. It didn’t
    Getting old and decrepit is a real fear of mine. They need help with everything, except feeding themselves – if you cut it up for them.
    So sad

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    1. It is sad, especially when they were once dependant people. At times it is best that the frail go to a place where they are cared for constantly by competent nurses, no matter how much it hurts to see them in those surroundings.

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  3. I don’t think I know anyone personally who has osteoporosis symptoms, but I’ve known several women who were taking medication because bone scans showed that they were in the early stages. They had to be very careful, as you said, to avoid situations in which they could easily break bones. It requires constant vigilance. I don’t have many risk factors, thank God, except that I don’t exercise. My calcium levels have always been normal, but I have to take vitamin D supplements.
    Thank you for your informative post.

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  4. Runs in my family. My mother had it and suffered a lot. I have it but by , as you say, walking helps to keep the circulation going and eating healthy is also important.That’s why I keep on walking every day.

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    1. You can get calcium from many unthought of foods such as broccoli and leafy green vegetables. Eating a handful of almonds can also give you quite a substantial amount of calcium.

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