Osteoporosis occurs when bone mineral density and bone mass decrease excessively. Some loss of bone mass occurs naturally with aging. Excessive loss can erode bone strength, making us more vulnerable to fractures or broken bones. Osteoporosis does not manifest in noticeable symptoms, so people can live with decreased bone density without knowing it. Older men and postmenopausal women are particularly susceptible to developing osteoporosis. Wellness habits, especially weight-bearing exercise and a nutrient-dense diet, are key to maintaining healthy bones and slowing bone loss. Existing research indicates that acupuncture therapy may offer additional benefits in delaying the onset and slowing the progression of osteoporosis.
Defining and Diagnosing Osteoporosis
While osteoporosis is more common in older populations, certain factors can increase your risk of developing the disease. For instance, women, particularly white and Asian women with thinner bones, tend to be at higher risk for osteoporosis. Having a family history of osteoporosis may also increase your risk. Falling estrogen levels or low testosterone can put you at increased risk, as can a diet low in calcium and Vitamin D, poor protein intake, a sedentary lifestyle, and heavy drinking. Long-term use of certain medications, especially steroids, seizure medications, SSRIs, and some cancer medications, may also contribute to bone loss. Your doctor may assess you by measuring your bone mineral density (BMD) to determine whether you’re suffering excessive bone loss.
Preventing and Treating Osteoporosis
Prevention is absolutely key for maintaining healthy bones with ageing. Eating a nutrient-dense diet that’s rich in calcium, protein, and Vitamin D, exercising regularly, and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle can help to prevent bone loss. Bone density can be restored with dietary therapy and lifestyle changes. It’s never too late to start.
In severe cases, a physician may prescribe medications to curb bone loss, such as bisphosphonates, calcitonin, selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERM), or Rank ligand inhibitors. However, these are serious medications that carry unwanted side effects. Fosomax (a bisphosphonate) can actually contribute to bone loss, leading to femur (leg) fractures and necrosis of the jaw. Many people taking these medications may wish to explore alternative therapies to avoid these unpleasant side effects.
Acupuncture Therapy for Osteoporosis
Western medicine is just beginning to explore the benefits of acupuncture for osteoporosis. While more comprehensive research is needed, the existing literature is promising. According to one systematic review and meta-analysis, acupuncture increased bone mineral density and relieved pain in randomized controlled trials, concluding that “acupuncture could be an effective therapy for treating osteoporosis.” Another systematic search and analysis examined acupoints and meridians that had the most significant impact on slowing the progression of osteoporosis, while another study concluded, “acupuncture is helpful in restoration of bone density in patients with osteoporosis.” A randomized controlled trial demonstrated that those receiving ten acupuncture treatment sessions over five weeks reported “significant favorable effects…on quality of life” and pain reduction. Additionally, warm needle acupuncture (WNA) and acupuncture in combination with moxibustion can improve bone mass density and relieve pain in those with osteoporosis. Those looking for a holistic approach to slowing bone loss and combatting the effects of osteoporosis may want to consider acupuncture to promote healing within and throughout the body.
Call Inner Works Acupuncture today at (503) 227-2127 to schedule an appointment with a Portland acupuncturist and healer.