While bisphosphonates and other similar drugs remain the medically proven gold standard for treatment of osteoporosis, there are other things you can do to strengthen your bones. Especially if you’ve been diagnosed with osteopenia, and are on the fence about going the drug route, you might consider complementary and alternative osteoporosis treatments – like the following.
I’m a breast cancer survivor. Unfortunately, the drugs I took to prevent a recurrence of that disease led to a different problem: decreased bone mineral density. After reading the literature and studying the data, I concluded that a course of drugs – the bisphosphonate Actonel – was my best bet to try to slow bone loss.
Shortly after my experience, one of my best friends, Janet, was astounded to discover (as the result of a baseline DEXA scan) that her T-scores were low enough to give her a very unexpected diagnosis of osteoporosis. Her T-scores were lower than mine; yet she decided – after reading the literature and studying the data – to forego drugs.
Already living a healthy lifestyle, Janet made sure she was getting enough calcium and vitamin D, then ratcheted up her exercise program – chiefly by becoming a passionate cyclist. Now she rides regularly, up to 50 miles at a time.
Who made the better treatment choice – me, or Janet?
Well, the jury’s out on that one. I lasted just about a year on Actonel before deciding the side effects weren’t worth it. I replaced my weekly pill with a heavier exercise regimen, including lots of weightlifting, and short bursts of bone-stressing impact exercise: jogging on a treadmill.
My most recent DEXA scan, taken last year, showed that my bone loss had stopped in one location, and slowed considerably in the other.
And how about Janet? Well, she hasn’t had her next DEXA scan yet. But she’s very fit, healthy, happy, and hoping her next set of T-scores reflects how hard she’s worked to keep her bones in good shape – sans drugs.
If you’ve been diagnosed with full-blown osteoporosis, you’ve no doubt been advised that drugs are the only surefire way to slow bone loss – but you don’t have to stop there. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is something that can be added to your drug regimen. Or, in the case of an osteopenia diagnosis, replace drugs altogether.
How can CAM work to improve bone health? Simply put, it’s other ways, besides drugs, to strengthen bones and deal with other conditions that might increase your risk of fractures – e.g., poor balance, weak muscles, and pain that prohibits regular exercise.
Here are a few CAM therapies to consider:
•Tai Chi: This Chinese martial art is far from violent; in fact, it’s often termed “moving meditation.” If you live in a city, you may have seen a group of people, usually Asian, often older, gathered in a grassy area, moving verrrry slowly through a series of poses; that’s Tai Chi.