How do you define osteoporosis?
Everyone wants an osteoporosis definition when they first are given this diagnosis and are warned their bones are brittle. Many of us have heard the term, but are unsure how to exactly define osteoporosis or how to deal with it. Besides, osteoporosis sounds scarey, and it is really some cause for legitimate concern.
The concern is not that the problem is necessarily fatal or contagious. The reason to be most concerned about osteoporosis is that it can limit your enjoyment of life greatly and it can be very painful to deal with the broken bones that frequently occur as a result of osteoporosis.
Spinal pain in general and low back pain in particular is a rather common pain condition around the world, with a variety of causes. Many times this spinal pain is due to osteoporosis. Fortunately, there are many things preventive measures that can be taken to reduce back pain when it does occur and to prevent the chances of developing a painful back problem.
It is commonly agreed that many key aspects of a person’s basic approach to life will have a direct and significant impact on their health:
These fundamental ways in which we live our lives eventually will result in how we look, feel, act and ultimately how long we live. This overall state of health determines in part how much pain a person experiences during the course of an average day and during times of greater than normal activity. In regard to low back pain it is commonly agreed that to prevent problems and maintain optimal back health a person should:
- Develop good core strength
- Perform daily activity to maintain good muscle tone and flexibility
- Keep body weight within normal limits
- Maintain good posture and spinal alignment
- Good body mechanics while working and get help when needed
- Follow a good diet
Good nutrition is a fundamental contributor to a strong and healthy bones and a pain-free back. It should be obvious that what we eat has a direct impact on our health in general; this also applies to connective tissue health and bone health. With a prolonged and repeated lack of proper mineral intake (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium) and protein intake (meat, fish, eggs and dairy) the bone tissue will be weakened, eventually resulting in osteoporosis.
The connective tissues of the body are the tendons, ligaments, cartilage, discs, fascia. They are all biologically active, slightly pliable and flexible, and somewhat compressible bands, cords, sheets and blocks of tissue. They server to support, connect or separate different types of joints and areas of the body, types of types of tissues as well as organs. Connective tissue is made of three main components: cells (fibroblasts), fibers (fibrin), and extracellular matrices (collagen). Important to this discussion, keep in mind that the spinal discs are a unique type of fibrocartilage that acts in several important ways to provide:
- Space between spinal bones, so that the spinal nerves are not compressed as they leave the spine
- Hold the spinal joints together in a series of solid pairs that ultimately total 24 bones stacked on top of each other
- Allow controlled and limited movement between the spinal bones as a person tries to bend forward, backward and side to side, since the pliable discs allow a rocking motion to occur
As a person ages the discs eventually lose much of their blood supply and consequently their nutrients and water content, allowing them to become thin, weak and dry. When they are so changed in the aging process it will slowly lead to the development of various painful neck and low back conditions:
- Facet syndrome
- Herniated disc
- Spinal stenosis
All bones – spinal bones – are a rigid and dense kind of connective tissue. They are very slightly flexible to absorb impacts and shocks without breaking (made possible by the protein that is found in bones), yet strong and hard to carry weight and give structure to the body (made possible by the calcium, phosphorus and other mineral found in rocks). Because of this similarity these soft and hard forms of connective tissue suffer from poor diet.
So in this way we see that the osteoporosis definition that applies to bone, also applies in related ways to connective tissue like the discs that complicate and worsen the problem of low back pain.
When the mineral and protein content of the bones is insufficient the bones can become thinner, weak and brittle. When this occurs it is called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis frequently leads to spontaneous fractures that can occur from minor stresses that commonly occur, like:
- Carrying groceries
- Twisting while getting out of bed
- Small impacts and jolts that commonly occur
- Leaning over the bathroom sink to wash
Good diet is important to good skeletal health because there is more to bone tissue than minerals. While calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, strontium, manganese and vitamin D and a few others take care of the nutrient needs of bone, a great amount of protein is also found in bones. If a vitamin D deficiency is present it can prevent the minerals from entering the bone tissue to make them strong and stable. These minerals and protein must be supplied on a daily basis for good bone health. The protein part of bone holds the mineral part of bones together and offers a matrix of support into which the minerals are deposited. This is why certain unique nutrients, minerals and protein are needed for normal healthy bone density as well as healthy connective tissue throughout the body.
The spine is made up of 24 moveable bones that are kept both flexible and stable because of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and intervertebral discs that are considered soft connective tissue. These same nutrients, minerals and protein also are needed for healthy and pain-free muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage and spinal discs because they support and give structure to the spine. So what you eat definitely can impact, positively or negatively, on the health of the spine and how it feels each day as we go through life.
Good sources of important bone minerals are:
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Almond milk
- Dark leafy greens
Another category of nutrients that are important to support soft tissue functional health as well as natural repair of connective tissue in the body, are these:
- Glucosamine sulfate
- Essential fatty acids
These nutrients are found abundantly thru ought nature in a wide variety of foods:
- Dark green vegetables
- Red fruits (apples) and vegetables (red onions)
- Soy products
- Black olives
- Flax seed,
- Chia seeds,
- Beans, (especially red)
- Cold-water oily fish (cod, sardine, halibut)
- Winter squash
- Olive oil,