By Megha Bajaj
Osteoporosis can be managed effectively through a variety of alternative methods. read the symptoms, understand the causes and get on the road to recovery!
Life for 54-year-old Soni Shah has just turned upside down. She was to go for a much-required family holiday to Europe in a week but an accident intervened. It was just a small slip over a pebble, nothing serious, and yet she fractured her hip bone. She is bed- ridden and in pain until a hip replacement surgery can rectify the situation. Tests revealed that she had osteoporosis since years and her bones were extremely brittle and ‘fracture-able’. The bad news is Soni is just one among thousands who suffer from this disease and are diagnosed only when they are lying in bed with a white cast over some fractured bone – most likely the hip, the wrist, or the spine! The good news is that not only are there several preventive measures one can take against osteoporosis but also once a fracture is treated surgically, various alternative therapies can once again help strengthen bones and avoid another fracture.
The word osteoporosis simply means “porous bones”. Bones become porous, or less dense, with age. Bone is a dynamic living tissue that is constantly being broken down and rebuilt, a process known as remodeling. As we age, the mineral-rich, internal part of the bone breaks down faster than it is rebuilt. Women are four times more likely to get osteoporosis than men. And post-menopausal women are the most vulnerable victims of osteoporosis as production of estrogen – the hormone that takes care of effective calcium absorption – stops. However, you need to remember that a certain degeneration of bone with time is only natural and osteoporosis should not be treated as disease unless you experience one or multiple symptoms over a period of time:
• Bone fracture (not every fracture means osteoporosis but osteoporosis leads to fractures)
• A gradual loss of height
• A rounding of the shoulders
• Gum inflammation and loosening of the teeth
• Acute lower backache
• Swelling of a wrist after a minor fall or injury
• Constant trouble with nail, hair, teeth, gums, joints, or back
• Nocturnal leg cramps
• Rheumatoid arthritis
The only way to find out if these symptoms are actually a sign of osteoporosis is to get an expensive (about Rs. 2,000) test called DEXA or Bone Density Test done.
However the world of alternative therapy has diverse and abundant answers to this problem with case studies to prove themselves.
If you bang your elbow against a sharp edge – what is the first intuitive reaction to the pangs of pain? You immediately place your palm over the hurt area to soothe it. Unknowingly, you administered reiki to yourself and utilized a small amount of the soothing, divine, healing universal force that is present all around us. A person who is initiated into reiki becomes a channel of healing and several bone-related diseases like osteoporosis, arthritis and rheumatism can be prevented and cured effectively.
Since regular reiki given by self or others ensures a healthy flow of energy throughout the system, calcium absorption can be taken care of and often osteoporosis can be prevented. In case of fractures, reiki can almost act like a miracle medicine. Dr. Priti Nandu, a Mumbai-based reiki grandmaster explains how: Any break in the skeletal framework will result in the disruption of the smooth flow of energy. This will traumatize the entire body and the resulting disease will impact on the physical and psychological well-being of the person. Reiki given twice a day for about ten minutes at a time can regularize energy flow and a fracture that takes six weeks to mend would require only four weeks when reiki is given! She adds, “The only thing one must take care of is that the fractures are set before reiki is applied to the break. This is because reiki will begin to knit the bone immediately and if it is not properly set, it could result in another painful surgery.”
“Since homeopathy aims at looking at each patient as an individual – with his own background and mental set-up, in each case treatment is different. So it is with osteoporosis,” says Dr. Jayesh Dhingreja, of the Homoeopathic Hospital, Mumbai. He firmly believes that homoeopathy can increase one’s life force and certainly help keep osteoporosis in control. He adds, “Strangely, a person with a positive outlook will barely ever suffer from the symptoms of osteoporosis even though the test reveals his bone density is low and someone with minimal signs of osteoporosis but negative temperament will find almost all symptoms of osteoporosis within himself. Indeed, we are psychosomatic beings – psycho (body) and soma (mind). Homoeopathy certainly takes care of the bones – but it also attempts to work with the mental make-up of a person, thereby providing a holistic healing!”
He adds, “Homoeopathy uses everything under the sun to make medicines. With each case the ingredients would change – but for osteoporosis, calcium in some form or the other would generally be added.”
From an ayurvedic perspective, osteoporosis is a vata condition, with the bones becoming porous due to an excess of air and ether and a decrease in earth. Vata is characterized by people who are extremely creative, generally slender, moody, lively and impulsive among others.
To prevent osteoporosis, ayurveda guides a person to keep their doshas in balance with an appropriate diet and a vata-pacifying regime. Herbs to facilitate mineral circulation and deposition into the bones are recommended such as ginger, long pepper and cinnamon, provided they are suitable for the body-type. Phytoestogenic herbs used to help postmenopausal women to retain minerals include red clover, alfalfa, parsley, sage, aniseed, fennel, sarasparilla, licorice, false unicorn root, ladies slipper, wild yam, peony, black cohosh and passionflower.
To help prevent osteoporosis, eat a handful of sesame seeds every morning, says Vasant Lad, B.A.M.S., M.A.Sc., director of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He also suggests calcium-rich almond milk twice a day, before breakfast and before bedtime. He says you can make your own almond milk by soaking ten almonds in a cup of warm water for ten minutes, peeling them and mixing them in a blender with one cup of milk. Sheetal Oswal, a Pune-based naturopath, adds that a little bit of raagi added to wheat flour of chapattis daily can do wonders for the bones in just a few months.
Yoga and other Exercises
Dr. Pradumna Mamtora, an orthopedic surgeon, is convinced that one needs to “fuse conventional and alternative therapies for a full recovery.” He now treats patients suffering from osteoporosis by fixing the bone and giving calcium supplements as part of conventional therapy, but works on healing the fracture, strengthening the bone and improving overall health through alternative therapies. Yoga, he says, can help in a significant way. Here’s how.
Firstly, yoga asanas keep the muscles strong and flexible ensuring that a large part of weight-bearing during the day is handled by the muscles themselves, reducing the stress over the bones and reducing the chances of a fracture. Secondly, pranayama acts as a fuel for good health. Correct breathing works for all osteoporosis patients. Thirdly, yoga enhances a positive outlook towards life and this further reduces symptoms of osteoporosis from showing up and bothering patients.
He further adds that 45 minutes of daily walk can do wonders for preventing and curing osteoporosis and if this could be done between 10 a.m to 2 p.m in the afternoon it is even better as the Indian skin can absorb maximum sunlight during this period. Sunlight provides Vitamin D, which in turn helps bones stay strong and healthy.
Also, recent studies have shown that the risk of osteoporosis is lower for people who are active, and especially those who do weight-bearing activities. Muscle pulling on bone builds bone, so weight-bearing exercise builds denser, stronger bones. The more bone mass you build before age 25 or 30, the better off you will be during the years of gradual bone loss. Exercise can also help you maintain bone density later in life. Thirty minutes, three times a week can do wonders for your bones.
The best exercises for building bone are weight- or load-bearing exercises. These include weight-lifting, jogging, hiking, stair-climbing, step aerobics, dancing, racquet sports, and other activities that require your muscles to work against gravity.
Therapy is not limited to conventional and alternative – it also includes functional. This focuses on the patient’s prompt return to activity after trauma. While the various alternative therapies do their work, patients of osteoporosis have the option of a back brace called spinomed that has been studied by Dr. Michael Pfiefer of Germany and is now available in India. The spinomed consists of an aluminum back support, which is malleable and thus adaptable to each individual patient’s spinal curvature. Wearing this back brace for six months by severely osteoporotic patients led to a 73 per cent increase in the strength of the back, a reduction in pain of 38 per cent and 27 per cent reduction in limitation of everyday activities.
So you see this bone-chilling disease is actually quite handleable. Soni is on her way to wellness and is planning yet another trip to a place closer – only this time taking care of herself. Europe too, is not a distant dream if only she can take a few pro-active steps for her bones daily.
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