Bone and Joint
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes brittle or porous bones due to a reduction in the bone mineral density. Bone is comprised of living tissue, which is constantly dying and renewing itself. Normally, old bone is cleared away as new growth occurs. However, when new bone cannot be generated, the bones—often those making up the hips, wrists, and spine—become soft and weak. So, should a fall or coughing fit occur, a fracture may arise. In more severe cases, there need not be a noticeable event for a break to transpire.
The early stages of osteoporosis may not be very telling, as there usually are no noticeable signs or symptoms. Later on, the following may present:
- Back pain
- Shrinking or loss of height
- Poor or slumped posture
- Easily occurring bone fractures
Though anyone can develop osteoporosis, the disease occurs most frequently among white and Asian women who are post-menopausal. Race and age are not the only factors–other contributors include:
- Low intake of calcium and prolonged use of corticosteroid drugs, which are known to interfere with the bone-building process and contribute to osteoporosis
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- An inactive lifestyle
Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help by increasing bone mass density and pain relief, among other things. These treatments may focus on supporting the kidneys, as they are the organ associated with bone and marrow. Marrow is contained within the deepest part of our bones and houses the precious substances that create different types of blood cells.
According to the Five Element theory of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, the kidneys and the urinary bladder are associated with water. Of the five elements—wood, fire, earth, and metal among them—water is considered the most yin of them all. Yin is the complement to yang, and together they compromise the forces that animate not only our bodies, but everything in the universe. Yin is yielding, cooling, moist, and is represented by the moon. Yang is active, warm, dry, and is associated with the sun. The ocean is yin, while the desert is yang.
A patient suffering from the consequences of brittle and porous bones may be diagnosed by a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine with a deficiency of yin. Healthy bone depends on a system of blood vessels to deliver nourishment. As blood is considered a thickened form of body fluids, it falls under the domain of yin. When the yin is in short supply, dryness is the natural result. A disruption or deficiency in the blood supply to the skeletal system may interfere with its ability to properly lubricate and nourish bone.
In addition to receiving acupuncture treatments to help nourish yin, there are some things you can do at home to address your symptoms of osteoporosis. Your practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine can recommend foods high in calcium. Calcium is an important mineral that supports the skeletal system. Some non-dairy options include tofu, broccoli, almonds, sardines with the bones still intact, tempeh, lentils, and sea vegetables. Calcium supplements are most readily absorbed when they are taken with food.
It may be necessary to increase physical activity as well. Weight-bearing exercises are the best choices in managing symptoms of osteoporosis and can help to prevent it as well. Walking, jogging, dancing, and tennis are all activities that work against gravity and help increase bone mass. To gain full benefits, it is best to perform any of these weight-bearing exercises at least three times a week, for a minimum of 20 minutes.
If you have already suffered from a fracture, have a general sense of fragility within your bones, or find yourself looking shorter than you used to, it might be time to schedule an appointment with your practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine