Yesterday, Nina wrote:
“… I said I wasn’t talking about meds, I wanted to know if what I was doing (exercise, diet, supplements) could build bone when there’s old bone being prevented from exiting my body. She said all that could not build bone only strengthen the bones. I disagree, but still have the question about old bone staying around and no room for new bone.”
How does your doctor think the exercise is “making bones stronger” if it is not, in fact, making new bone? How would that work exactly? Do doctors even hear themselves talking?
The bones are stronger because there’s more of it! The exercise caused your body to up the ante on osteoblastic production and to make some more bone in order to keep up with the demands you were making on it.
Forgive me for repeating myself, but when I was in school for personal training, in my anatomy classes I learned that the human body is constantly making new cells. And every seven years, the cells of your skeleton have replicated / regenerated – whatever you want to call it. So the skeleton you have in 2011 is not the same skeleton you had in 2004. Before I even learned about the B.E.S.T. program or the Yoga vs. Osteoporosis program, my thinking was that if my body is making a new skeleton, I could through diet and lifestyle changes (exercise) encourage my body to make a better skeleton. Wolff’s Law proves that the skeleton responds to the stresses being made on it – that’s why the greater trochanter even exists. You would not have that huge knobby thing on the outside of your femur (thigh bone) if learning how to walk (and the muscles pulling on the thigh bone as you learn how to walk) didn’t cause it to develop there. Look! They’ve even got pictures of how it works in a medical textbook for cryinoutloud! (I hope you guys can read that fine print.)
The above picture depicts weight lifting, but the same is true for yoga. Only instead of one limb pulling against a weight, you have one limb pulling against another limb, pitting the strength of the two against each other. But both are effective.
Because our doctors keep telling us exercise cannot improve bone density; that our bones are our bones and we can’t grow new ones; and because I hadn’t stumbled on the picture above, I started wondering if I was the victim to some urban myth (or really bad anatomy teacher.) You know, “there are copperhead snakes in the button bins at Walmart” or “the moonwalk never happened” or whatever.
So I wrote to Dr. Fishman:
Only three more weeks ’til my next DEXA. Thanks for writing a prescription for me! I have a question which you may or may not be able to answer. It’s my understanding that we essentially have a new skeleton every seven years or so. It’s also my understanding that our bones are constantly being remodeled, the osteoclasts breaking down old, weak bone; the osteoblasts building new, healthier bone. And I know that bone responds to stresses placed on it (which is why the yoga study works).
So why then does my doctor (and everyone else’s doctor that I know of) tell me that it is impossible to grow new bone? That it cannot be done. Aren’t we in fact growing new bone all the time? No, I’m not getting taller or anything like that, but aren’t my bones constantly recreating themselves? If I see improvement on my DEXA, what is that if not more bone, i.e., new bone? And why do they think the drugs are so great when they know the drugs don’t build bone either, they just keep you from losing bone?
Just curious. If I have one more doctor tell me that it is impossible to reverse osteoporosis without the drugs I may run screaming in the streets like somebody out of a Greek tragedy.
And he wrote back:
You’re quite right. Just as your hair and nails grow, and your skin sheds all day and all night long, your bones metabolize. Yoga tilts the balance in favor of bone deposition, You know it even if your MDs don’t.
So this brings up a larger issue.
If doctors don’t remember/understand that your skeletal cells are constantly being replaced on a daily basis until, seven years hence, you have a new skeleton; if their belief is that the new skeleton can only be worse than your old skeleton; if they know that exercise makes bone stronger, but don’t understand that it’s stronger because exercise makes more bone — then no wonder they’re pushing drugs willy-nilly. But how tragic that they are so misinformed, they can’t offer patients exercise and diet as an alternative treatment.
Is it that they don’t believe people will keep up with the exercise? Or is it that they truly don’t believe in exercise? I don’t know.
It is a sad truth that exercise will not work for everyone, as Pam wrote yesterday. Sometimes there are so many things going on in the body and its systems are so out of whack, exercise isn’t going to be a big enough weapon. But if you don’t have anything else going on but osteoporosis, and no secondary causes (make sure they test you for everything), then why not give exercise, supplements and diet a try? Give yourself a time limit and go for it.
And Nina, sadly I don’t have an answer for you about whether or not you are depositing new bone in weak areas if the Fosamax is preventing the old bone from getting broken down in the first place. I’m sorry, I just don’t know about that one. But do know that your exercise is definitely having an effect. Congratulations on your new, improved scores!