My Bone Loss Story
According to the Mayo Clinic, osteoporosis “causes bones to become brittle and weak” because “the formation of new bone does not keep up with the loss of old bone.”1
Bones are ever-changing. Like every part of our bodies, they are constantly breaking down and re-forming. That’s why it’s so important to continue a proper intake of calcium and protein (along with other vitamins and minerals). Of course, exercise and hydration are very important in keeping all our processes working at an optimum rate.
Osteoporosis in my lower spine
But, sometimes, even when doing everything right, osteoporosis can sneak in like any disease. I would say that I was always at the moderate-high risk for osteoporosis (when I got older)...or so I thought. I am female, I am very petite, and I have mild scoliosis in my back, according to one pediatrician. I make that point because it’s never come up again in any medical conversation and has not affected me in any way now.
...when I got older. Apparently, ‘old’ meant 23 years of age.
I went in for my first DEXA scan as I started having back pain and I was on a daily dose of prednisone. I found out that I had osteoporosis in my lower spine and osteopenia in my hips.
I was angry about these diagnoses
Well...d*mn. I expected it but was still blown away when I looked at the results on paper. I cried. I was angry. I don’t know why.
I realized that, while I felt “able-bodied” and I still rock-climbed, I was in trouble. One bad fall, weird twist, or just bad luck and I could fracture a vertebra or I could break a hip. How?? I was 23 years old!
Concerns about falling and injury
At the time, I had just started lead climbing. This means that instead of the rope going up through to the top of the wall then down to the belayer, I would take the rope with me and clip it into the wall as I climbed. The biggest difference between top rope and lead climbing is that if I fell while doing the latter, I would fall farther.
The physics of it also ensured that I would swing out from the wall and I had to use my legs to catch myself from crashing into it. There is quite a bit of pressure on my legs, pelvis, and lower spine. Generally, my legs were strong enough to take the fall but I wondered which time I would not be so lucky. What if the force was too much and my body buckled under the pressure. No bueno.
Another consideration: the longer the fall, the more likely the rope gets caught and twists. There is a chance, albeit, a small one, that my body twists with it and I slam – back-first - into the wall. That needs no explanation.
I had to be more careful
The bottom line: I had to be careful. I stopped lead climbing (I was not too bent out of shape since I didn’t like it anyway), and I started being way more mindful of everyday tasks: lifting things, using the stairs, walking on slick surfaces, and walking the dogs.
In a small way, my life had changed, again.
Slowing down osteoporosis
I experienced continuous loss (though, not as steeply as in that first three years) until I found a medication that slowed the rate of osteoporosis. We tried a few after the first DEXA, but they didn’t work very well or I experienced side effects. I finally found Prolia, which has possibly the worst side effect I have ever had (intense, crippling pain – I cry at every injection). But, it works.
As of 2017, I did not experience any worsening osteoporosis. My body was not losing more bone than it was making and, at such a young age, I couldn’t ask for anything better.
This is a trend I don’t mind continuing. I wish there was a way to replace the lost bone, but I just have to be conscientious of my body and hope I don’t break a bone, let alone a hip, or my back!
Do you have osteoporosis? How do you fight it?
Does your RA impact you financially?