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Strong and Healthy Bones

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Healthy Bones and Chiropractic

Exercise is an important part of attaining and maintaining a lifetime of health and vitality. One of the often overlooked benefits of regular exercise is a strong and healthy skeletal system. There are other things we can do to help our bones stay healthy, such as making sure that we get enough calcium in our diet and, if possible, getting 15 to 30 minutes of unprotected mid-day sunlight on our bare skin several times each week.

Receiving regular chiropractic care is another important aspect of staying healthy.  Getting regular chiropractic treatment helps to ensure that our nerve system is functioning at peak efficiency. When our nerve systems are fully online, all our tissues, cells, glands and organs are able to do precisely what they're supposed to do when they're supposed to do it.

With a properly functioning nerve system, bone cells are supported in building strong dynamic structures that will last. In this way, chiropractic care helps to optimize the positive results from all the other good things we're doing for our health, including eating a nutritious diet, and making sure we get enough regular exercise and proper rest. For the best results, make regular chiropractic care a part of your strategy for maintaining strong and healthy bones.

If you're like most people, you probably don't think about the various components of your physical body unless something goes wrong. Take your bones, for example.  They are there, unseen and under the surface, supporting your body and playing an important role in its movements. You probably never give your skeletal system much thought except in the case of a traumatic injury or other significant problem.

If a bone is bruised or fractured due to trauma, it is common for most of these injuries to heal on their own in due course. You may need to use a brace, sling, or cast to protect a fractured bone while it's rebuilding, and perhaps have it reset so it will heal correctly, but usually within a month or two everything is back to normal.

On the other hand, many actual diseases can have a negative effect on the skeletal system long term, sometimes even for the rest of a person's life.  The good news is that at least some of these serious conditions can often be prevented or minimized. Osteoporosis is a disorder which can have serious consequences, including disabling hip fractures and crippling fractures of the lumbar vertebras. For many people though, osteoporosis can be prevented, and it's very important to understand how to minimize your risk.
First of all we need to understand what Osteoporosis is.  Basically, it's a disorder that involves both the loss of bone substance and the disorganization of bone structure. "Osteo" means bone and "porosis" means pores or the state of being porous. In osteoporosis the biochemical bony matrix is broken down and some of the bony tissue itself is resorbed, which weakens the bone structure and creates holes causing the affected bone to become porous. Metabolic factors involved in the process of osteoporosis include vitamin D and calcium levels, as well as the activity of bone cells called osteoblasts, which are responsible for producing the bone matrix.

You have probably heard the saying, "if you don't use it, you'll lose it."   This is commonly applied to things like cognitive function, muscle strength, flexibility and endurance.  Over time, if you fail to challenge your mind and body in various ways, you will most likely begin to experience a decrease in these aspects.  The same is true for your skeletal system.

Because bone appears to be so hard and durable, we tend to think of it as a finished product.  In actuality though, bone tissue is highly dynamic and responds to physiological stresses such as weight-bearing exercise.  Additionally, bone is constantly being broken down as it responds to metabolic needs elsewhere in the body. This creates a dynamic tension between these two processes of building up and breaking down bone tissue.  Unfortunately, in the case of osteoporosis there is much more breaking down of bone tissue than building it up. The most obvious and serious consequence of this imbalance is the weakening of bone's structural strength. Eventually, primary weight-bearing bones such as the hip or thigh bones or the lumbar vertebra have lost so much structural integrity that they fracture under the pressure of normal weight-bearing loads.

Like the rest of the components of our bodies, our bones are a precious natural resource. Unlike global natural resources such as coal or natural gas, our bones are a renewable resource. But in order for that to happen, we have to pay attention to what our bones need to renew themselves. If a bone isn't being used effectively, higher-priority metabolic needs in other locations will cause important biochemicals to be removed from bone. Then a bone, such a hip bone, begins to lose its structure.

The most important question is "How can we ensure that our bones are being used effectively so that they continue to remain strong and dynamic?"  The answer is to make sure we perform regular, weight-bearing exercise.1,2,  To put it succinctly, bones will retain their metabolic structure if they are required to do so. The body is very smart and locates precious resources where they are needed. If weight-bearing loads are consistently placed on your spine and long bones, these dynamic structures will not only retain their shape and strength, but will build more bony layers - becoming even stronger. And of course, if we want to have a lifetime of vibrant health, it's important to have strong and healthy bones in order to achieve that.

1Bababtunde OO, et al: A meta-analysis of brief high-impact exercises for enhancing bone health in premenopausal women. Osteoporos Int Sept 28 2011 (Epub ahead of print) PMID: 21953474

2Ragucci KR, Shrader SP: Osteoporosis treatment: an evidence-based approach. J Gerontol Nurs 37(7):17-22, 2011

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