Is a Silent Killer Stalking You?
by Keith Wassung
Osteoporosis is a major public health threat for 38 million Americans, 80% of whom are women. Annual treatment costs for osteoporosis exceed $15 billion. At least 1.5 million women suffer fractures each year as a result of osteoporosis and the numbers are increasing. More than twice as many fractures occur now compared to 30 years ago, and one out of every two women and one in eight men over the age of 50 will have an osteoporosis related fracture in their lifetime. Clearly something is wrong with our bone health, and the medical profession has not been able to do much about it.
Osteoporosis is often called the silent disease because the weakening of the bones often occurs for years before any kind of symptoms may appear. The impact of osteoporosis will become even more profound as the oldest of the baby boomers approach menopause, the stage of life when the bone loss that leads to osteoporosis begins to accelerate. The average American woman loses 1.5 inches of height each decade after menopause as a result of vertebral collapse. By the time they reach old age, one-third of all women and one-sixth of all men will have had a hip fracture. Even more disturbing is the fact that hip fractures are fatal 20% of the time. The good news is that these grim statistics can be turned around, and osteoporosis can be prevented.
Osteoporosis is the condition that exists when the loss of bone over time has caused a dramatic weakening of the skeleton. Bones are more than just a framework over which the rest of the body is draped — they are living tissue made from calcium, and they are constantly changing.
Our bones are at work all day every day throughout our entire lives. They perform tasks that are critical to the functioning of the rest of the body, such as the manufacture of blood and the storage of nutrients, and the bones themselves are constantly being taken apart and rebuilt in a process called remodeling.
Bone remodeling occurs when old bone is broken down and replaced with new bone. It is kind of a preventive maintenance program that is vital for the day-to-day strength of bones. The remodeling of bone is powered by the steroid hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. When levels of these hormones drop or become unbalanced, bone remodeling is negatively impacted.
What is Osteoporosis?
Bone serves as a warehouse or storage site for calcium and other minerals. When insufficient levels of these minerals exist in the bloodstream, the body takes action by withdrawing minerals from the warehouse. If the body is using these minerals without replacing them, the result is a steady decrease in bone density, known as bone loss, and it results in reduction of bone mass.
Researchers have determined that when bone density falls below a certain point, the bones become extremely prone to fracture. This point of impending injury is called the fracture threshold. If the bone density falls below the fracture threshold, the condition is called osteoporosis.
Causes of Osteoporosis
There are several factors that can contribute to osteoporosis and the majority of osteoporotic cases are caused by multiple factors. There are essentially three areas that contribute to osteoporosis: abnormal biomechanical or structural stress, chemical stress, and neurological stress. Every change in the function of a bone is followed by certain definite changes in the internal architecture of the body and external conformation of this change in accordance with mathematical laws.
Daily weight-bearing activity is essential to the health of the skeleton. Mechanical weight-bearing stress is the most important external factor affecting bone development and remodeling.
The human spine protects the nervous system and supports weight like a pillar. When viewed from the back, the spine is straight; when viewed from the side, it has a series of 60 degree curves, which are the strongest and most stable structures as observed in nature and engineering.
Bones change their shape and structure in response to how much or how little mechanical stress is applied. Mechanical stress is shown to be transduced into electrical energy which in turn is the signal for remodeling or reshaping of the bone to meet the demand of the stress.
An interesting example of this process occurs in astronauts. The reduction of gravity that results in the weightlessness of space flight leads to profound and rapid loss of skeletal mass despite vigorous activity.
MD’s underestimate osteoporosis risk. One of the must dangerous side effects of corticosteroids is osteoporosis, yet a survey of the American College of Rheumatology shows that many physicians do not realize this. They prescribe corticosteroid drugs for millions of people to treat such conditions as asthma, arthritis, shoulder and back pain, lupus, and inflammatory diseases. Research clearly shows that their use is a contributing factor to osteoporosis.
The risk of spinal osteoporosis with vertebral fractures is significantly greater among people who drink alcoholic beverages than among those who do not. Alcohol interferes with the normal process of bone absorption of calcium and Vitamin D, and diminishes the body’s ability to build and maintain bone mass.
Cigarettes is another major contributor to osteoporosis. In women, smoking causes the liver to convert estrogen into another compound that is not active in the bone formation process. In men and women, cigarette smoking reduces the level of testosterone, and decreased testosterone is associated with accelerated loss of bone mass.
The Key to Stopping Osteoporosis
The central nervous system is the master control system of the body, controlling and coordinating every single bodily function. An intact nervous system will lead to optimum functioning of the human body.
The nervous system controls the endocrine glands, which secrete hormones into the bloodstream to regulate body chemistry, including the process of bone remodeling. Interference with bone remodeling (the balance between bone formation and bone re-absorption) underlies nearly every disease that influences the skeleton. Most such disorders are caused by imbalances in hormones or other blood chemicals.
The key to stopping osteoporosis lies in hormonal balance and in the delicate balance of minerals that maintain calcium homeostasis in the blood. Genetic, chemical and nutritional factors can all play a part in glandular dysfunction, but a well-documented, yet often overlooked cause is spinal stress which can cause interference to the nervous system.
The spinal vertebrae are susceptible to certain stresses and forces which can jar them from their proper position. These minor misalignments of the spine are called vertebral subluxations. The presence of vertebral subluxations can often by detected by examination of a person’s posture. There is ample research which shows the relationship between posture and numerous health conditions such as osteoporosis.
Posture and normal physiology are interrelated. Posture affects and moderates every physiological function from breathing to hormonal production. Abnormal posture is evident in patients with chronic and stress-related illnesses. Homeostasis and nervous system function are ultimately connected with posture. Despite the considerable evidence that posture affects physiology and function, the significant influence of posture on health is not addressed by most physicians.
The levels of the head, shoulders and hips are important in determining if there is a spinal problem. If they are even, the spine is usually straight. If one side is higher, there is a high likelihood that vertebral subluxations may exist. If left undetected and uncorrected, increased spinal degeneration and nerve interference, along with these slight postural distortions, will continue.
Changes in the optimal spinal position produce spinal pathologies and loss of function. Spinal pathologies destroy joint reflexes, arc fibers, and cause nerve impedance.
Chiropractic and Osteoporosis
The science of Chiropractic is founded on the premise that an optimum spine and proper nerve supply are essential in controlling and regulating bodily function. Chiropractic care is an excellent approach to preventing osteoporosis and other health conditions. Chiropractors are experts in spinal structure and body mechanics. Chiropractic adjustments are aimed at maintaining sound structure of the body by correcting spinal and postural distortions and preventing functional and structural health problems. Doctors of Chiropractic detect and correct vertebral subluxations by physically adjusting the spine. This restores the nervous system to an optimum level of function, which maximizes the body’s inherent healing ability.
Chiropractic focuses on the anatomy of the spinal cord and the nerves that branch out from it. Even minor deviations of the spine caused by poor posture can impair the working of a nerve and the body part it supplies.
Chiropractic adjustments restore and maintain the proper structure of the spine. When the spinal column is brought into balance, normal function is restored and structural degeneration is prevented.
Osteoporosis can be more effectively prevented than treated. And when one considers the enormous cost and morbidity of osteoporosis-related complications, prevention is the only cost-effective approach.
The focus of this article has been on the importance of Chiropractic care, but the importance of proper nutrition and exercise cannot be overlooked in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and other health conditions.
About The Author:
Keith Wassung is a nationally known author and speaker in the field of health education and research. A former national drug-free weightlifting champion, Keith turned to Chiropractic health care after being diagnosed with a near fatal health condition. His recovery led him to research, write and lecture about the scientific principles of Chiropractic.
Keith has authored over 100 health education and research articles and has been featured in periodicals such as Iron Man, Men\’s Health, Muscle and Fitness, Milo, Muscle Mag, Pediatric Journal, ICPA journal, Today’s Chiropractic, Get Up, ICA Journal, In-Practice as well as many others.
Keith has spoken at Chiropractic colleges and Chiropractic seminars all over the United States. He has been honored as “Layman of the Year” by Sherman College of Chiropractic, “Man of the Year” by the Federation of Straight Chiropractic and “Humanitarian of the Year” by the Southern Chiropractic Association.
In addition to writing and lecturing, Keith has assisted in the building and development of hundreds of private Chiropractic practices all over the United States. His community outreach projects include the development and implementation of the Health Jeopardy program that is used in elementary schools as well as the Natural childbirth lecture series performed at Bradley classes and the nationwide Blockbuster Free Chiropractic documentary videos.
Keith is married and lives with his wife Peggie and their six children in Goose Creek, SC. They are a home school family and are active in their community.