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Osteoporosis: The Silent Disease

Did you know that osteoporosis will affect up to 1 in every 2 women throughout their lifespans?

Osteoporosis is a disease that is silent, but can be “deadly”. This disease concerns the very structure of our bodies, the bases which allow us to be strong and mobile: our bones. When we are affected by osteoporosis, our bone mass is significantly reduced, which makes them fragile and prone to fractures and breaks. For those who live with osteoporosis, it can be difficult to move and exercise without risk of pain or injury.

What are the common risk factors for osteoporosis?

  • Genetics (family history, females are more prone to this disease)

  • Age (those 50+ are most at risk)

  • Lifestyle (sedentary behaviors, diet)

  • Menopause

  • Medication

  • Prior fractures

  • Other chronic disease

As members of the human race grow to be older and older, we are learning more about chronic conditions associated with aging- especially those that can be prevented. Osteoporosis is one of these preventable diseases. Research suggests that resistance exercise is a powerful tool in terms of maintaining or increasing bone mass. Within the category of “resistance exercise”, there are two subdivisions of activity: weight-bearing exercises and muscle-strengthening exercises. Weight-bearing exercises incorporate the activities which utilize our own body weight as a stimulus paired with cardiovascular exercise. To perform weight-bearing exercise, we can walk, run, bike, and even dance! To perform muscle-strengthening exercises, we can lift weights or perform other activities that utilize more weight than our bodies naturally carry. The same expression for muscle mass is true of bone mass: use it or lose it!

How else can I prevent osteoporosis?

  • Incorporate calcium and protein in your diet

  • Get more vitamin D

  • Early diagnosis: after the age of 50, ask your doctor about osteoporosis if you experience bone fracture/breakage

Why should we talk about osteoporosis and trauma?

Chronic illness and chronic pain are an important source of emotional distress. Some of us are born with or develop chronic illnesses that cause us to feel unrelenting pain on a day-to-day basis. This pain is not only physical, but it is emotionally taxing as well.

Up to 25% of those who endure a severe chronic illness suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result. Chronic illness adds a different facet to trauma due to the fact that an illness is not a single, finite event, but rather a continual, lived experience that occurs indefinitely. Furthermore, PTSD can even worsen symptoms of the illness as research suggests that high levels of stress lead to inflammation of the body, which can produce a plethora of physical ailments.

Additionally, when we experience a chronic illness, we are more likely to be faced with stimuli that trigger our response to trauma. Due to the nature of a chronic illness, our treatment requires that we seek medical attention, which forces us to visit the very buildings and doctors which we associate with our trauma and illness. This means that our illness and pain occupies a large portion of our thoughts on any given day.

Concerning the emotions that chronic illness provokes, many who suffer from chronic diseases have heightened negative beliefs about comfort and safety. When we are ill, it can feel as if our own body is working against us. This makes it impossible to avoid or escape our pain, and it also makes it more difficult to cope with our trauma.

How can we cope with trauma from chronic illness?

1. The most ideal way to deal with a chronic illness is to prevent it. We have the power to prevent several chronic diseases, including osteoporosis, if we choose to follow an appropriate lifestyle regarding our physical and mental wellness. However, in many cases chronic illnesses cannot be prevented, and so we will have to learn how to live with them

2. Take care of yourself. Here at EmpoweredRx, we are here to help you navigate your physical fitness from a trauma-informed perspective. However with chronic illness, it is crucial that you get the medical care that you need in addition to working on your fitness goals.

3. Don’t go looking for your pain. For those who suffer from a chronic illness, pain can be a real part of everyday life. It’s important not to wait for our pain to come, because if we seek it, we will find it. If you find that you’re spending a significant amount of time thinking about when the aches and pains will return, try to find a positive distraction. Call a friend, watch TV, or do something else that keeps your mind occupied.

4. Practice Radical Acceptance. If you are familiar with Dialectical Behavior Therapy or Alcoholics Anonymous, you might know the Serenity Prayer. The saying goes as follows: “(God) Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. This essentially means that we should control the things that we can realistically control, but let go of the things we cannot. Practicing this skill is especially beneficial for physical ailments, as it often feels completely out of our control.

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