Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It develops slowly over several years and is often only diagnosed when a fall or sudden impact causes a bone to break (fracture). It affects over 3 million people in the U.K.
It is one of the hazards for post-menopausal women, and is caused by loss of calcium in the bones, which become progressively weaker, thinner and more brittle, and can break very easily, particularly at the pelvis or the wrist. Osteoporosis can sometimes begin to affect people as early as in their twenties.
There are also a number of other possible causes of osteoporosis, such as long term use of steroids and other medications, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise and even a family history of the condition.
Loss of bone density leads to the spine gradually becoming shorter and more curved, causing loss of height and hunched shoulders, “dowager’s hump”. Exercise is very important, even a leisurely daily walk is therapeutic, and the gentle Chinese exercise system of Tai Chi can be extremely effective. It will boost the emotional and mental energies, as well as helping the patient to function normally.
In Chinese Medicine, as the Kidneys dominate the bones, so osteoporosis is the result of a Kidney deficiency. If bones become decalcified, it is through lack of nourishment to the Kidneys. Chinese Medicine treatment is concentrated on tonifying herbs. Gu Sui Bu (Rhizoma Drynariae), Gou Ji (Rhizoma Cibotii) and Du Zhong (Cortex Eucommiae) might be prescribed, depending on the severity of the problem.
Osteoporosis must be caught in the early stages, to prevent further damage or slow down deterioration. As the Kidneys lie deep in the body, they are not easy to tonify quickly, so treatment must be long-term.
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