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Osteoporosis Bones need to move

Issue 01/2017

Every vertebral body is like a solid house in which the horizontal and vertical trabeculae from the frame and massive roof plates are mounted on the walls. When bone metabolism starts to change at the age of 30, bone statics can slowly become unbalanced and a powerful deterioration process can set in that blocks bone regeneration. That’s how things work naturally – but osteoporosis accelerates these processes.

The trabeculae deteriorate more rapidly, bones become less firm and more brittle and eventually break – first one and then many. People with osteoporosis are afraid that they will no longer be able to lead the same type life that they have in the past. However, a new back orthosis can help people who suffer from osteoporosis regain their confidence and lead active lives: Spinova Osteo reduces pain, straightens the spine, and improves the patient’s gait. In this manner, the orthosis help bones once again do what they need to most , which is move.

One of many: Ursula Hartwich

You can hardly see any signs left by the woman walking through the autumn leaves, which rustle only just a little when Ursula Hartwich walks on by. Hartwich, 73, moves pretty fast. The young person accompanying her has to make an effort to keep pace. “I love nothing better than to be outside in nature,” says Hartwich as she looks up into the trees in the Stadtpark in Leipzig. She keeps moving quickly and has no need to slow down – which is actually amazing because Ursula Hartwich has osteoporosis.

Half of all women over 70 suffer from osteoporosis

Some six million people have osteoporosis in Germany, and around 80 percent of them are women. The exact numbers are difficult to determine because the condition often goes undetected for a long period of time. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), osteoporosis is one of the most common diseases worldwide. It is most frequently caused by insufficient levels of estrogen. When hormone concentrations decline in women during menopause, bone deteriorates faster than it regenerates. One out of three women begin suffering from osteoporosis directly after menopause, while half of all women over 70 have osteoporosis.

“I thought it was a bruise”

Just two years ago a walk in the park would have been unthinkable for Ursula Hartwich. It was in that year that she fell while getting out of a tram on the day before Christmas. “At first I only felt slight pain in my back,” Hartwich, who is a petite women, recalls. “I thought I had a bruise, and you tend to grow accustomed to pain to a certain extent when you get old.” Her pain got worse, however, and she went to the doctor. When the x-rays came back, she was shocked to find out that she had suffered two vertebral fractures. The “good news” was that the fractures were stable and that surgery would initially not be required. Nevertheless, the day before Christmas two years ago is a day Ursula Hartwich will never forget.

Despite frequent indications, only few people get checked for osteoporosis

The dangerous thing about osteoporosis is that there are very few initial external symptoms. In the early stages of the disease, patients often complain of a feeling of weakness in the back. Pain is often dismissed as being “age-related,” meaning the disease is frequently detected too late. The Dachverband Osteologie (Umbrella Association for Osteology) estimates that only half the people who suffer multiple osteoporotic fractures are actually treated for osteoporosis.

“I had bad reactions to bone-strengthening medication”

A bone density test using the DXA method revealed a value for Hartwich of less than minus 2.5, which is the threshold value for osteoporosis. She was very much aware of her risk of suffering another osteoporotic fracture, but she had only limited possibilities to do something about it: “I had bad reactions to the bone-strengthening medication (bisphosphonates),” Hartwich explains. “I was very careful at home and I drank milk – I didn’t things would get that bad that fast.”

Prevention: A healthy diet and exercise

Ursula Hartwich now walks with confidence: Spinova Osteo is underneath her jacket to support her.
Ursula Hartwich now walks with confidence: Spinova Osteo is underneath her jacket to support her.

Milk products are the primary source of calcium, which is the main component of bone. Many Germans don’t take in enough calcium, and they also don’t exercise enough – and both of these aspects increase the likelihood of suffering from osteoporosis. Lack of movement leads to a deterioration of bone mass. Regular exercise helps bones absorb calcium, and when the sun shines, vitamin D forms, which transports calcium from the intestines to bone tissue. Elderly people should also avoid being underweight (BMI < 20). Excessively low weight leads to a lack of muscle mass and because muscles and bones are closely related to one another, lower muscle mass also means less bone material. More specifically, the density of a bone increases in line with the degree of muscle force exerted upon it , and the sensitivity threshold must be repeatedly reset here.

Spinova Osteo at her side

The pain continued after Ursula Hartwich’s fall , but pain medication wasn’t an option after her bad reaction to the pills. So, what was she to do? “I was completely rattled,” Hartwich says in a soft voice as as she sits down straight on the sofa in her small apartment after returning from her walk in the park. “Then my doctor prescribed this here for me.” Hartwich now turns her upper body, reaches for an object lying next to her and places it on a table. It’s an orthosis – “my constant companion,” she says. “Well , nearly constant ,” she adds with a smile. Hartwich mainly wears the new Spinova Osteo when she goes on walks with her beloved hiking club, which she’s been a member of for over 20 years. “For one long year I couldn’t go on any hikes – that was the worst thing for me,” she recalls. The stabilizing and straightening orthosis now allows Hartwich to once again go hiking and take walks in the park. The pain she suffered is nearly gone. “I feel secure in my body again,” she says as the visit comes to an end – and orthosis or no orthosis, she insists on accompanying us to the elevator. Her Spinova Osteo hangs on a coat rack, almost like a reminder of what good posture is supposed to look like.

Risk factors for osteoporosis

• Lack of movement
• Low-calcium diet
• Vitamin D deficiency
• Nicotine, alcohol
• Low weight (BMI < 20)
• Estrogen deficiency
• Metabolic disorders
• Medications – e.g. cortisone

Bilder: Bauerfeind, Frank Steinhorst