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.
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