Osteoporosis, commonly referred to as brittle bones, is a syndrome leading to the reduction of bone mineral density, and changes in the variety and amount of proteins found in bones. Patients with osteoporosis are at an increased risk of fracture; a hip or spine fracture would require immediate hospitalization and surgery. Spinal or vertebral fractures can also result in loss of height, severe back pain, and deformity. Risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Of the 10 million Americans affected by osteoporosis, 80% are women. Women have lighter and thinner bones, and lose bone rapidly post-menopause.
- Age reduces bone density.
- Heredity and genetics determine if one is at risk.
- A smaller and thinner person is at a higher risk
- An adult who has broken one or more bones during his or her adulthood.
- There is a greater likelihood of people of Caucasian, Asian, or Latino descent to develop osteoporosis as compared to Africans. • Women with low estrogen levels, and men with low testosterone levels pose a similar risk.
- A diet lacking in calcium, vitamin D, phosphorous, and essential vitamins.
- Too much animal protein in the diet can lead to loss of calcium through the kidneys.
- Eating too much sodium can cause bone loss.
- Inactive lifestyles combined with smoking and alcohol abuse increase the risk of osteoporosis.
- Certain medications may also make one more susceptible to osteoporosis.
While osteoporosis is a serious condition, traditional Chinese medical modalities show promise in helping patients.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) centers on the balancing of energy (qi) in each human being. TCM focuses on restoring the body to health through herbs and diet as well. According to TCM, the loss of Kidney Qi and blood stagnation are mainly responsible for osteoporosis.
The herbal decoctions used for bone remedies strengthen the kidneys, build qi, as well as work towards regeneration of new bone cells. A variety of herbs are used such as liquorices root, fresh ginger, Chinese taxillus herb, fresh oyster shell, white peony root, cassia bark, etc., are used to help patients with osteoporosis and other bone diseases.
Clinical research conducted at the Traditional Medicine Research Institute, has found that Chinese medications containing rich kidney tonic ingredients, amino acids, and compounds could revitalize the cell systems and help in the treatment of osteoporosis. Other clinical research found that the herbs were effective in faster recovery from traumatic fractures. The formulas had anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, lessened pain and swelling, and improved blood circulation and microcirculation of injured tissue and organs.
In acupuncture, certain specific points, known as the 13 Ring of Earth acupuncture points, work towards building calcitonin – the hormone responsible for decalcification of bone. Research done at the Chengdu University has proven the positive effects of acupuncture in regards to increasing in bone metabolism.
Overall, traditional Chinese medicine offers promise in treating the root causes of osteoporosis and other bone diseases.