For most women going through menopause is horrific enough…….hot flashes, night sweats, depression, mood swings, short-term memory loss. Now they can add yet another thing to that list: scoliosis. In mature female patients without a history of scoliosis, menopausal changes can mean changes or reductions in their bone mineral density. Loss of bone density can cause the spine to deteriorate relatively fast, and any postural habits that cause functional spinal curves may now become structural curves as bone reduction occurs in areas of more compression.
The incidence of scoliosis in menopausal patients, more appropriately referred to as adult degenerative scoliosis, may be as high as 30%. This is in sharp contrast to adolescent idiopathic scoliosis whose incidence in only around 2-3%. Adult degenerative scoliosis, also called de Novo scoliosis, has a characteristic scoliosis located in the lumbar spine region, most often without any other compensatory curve above. Many of these patients have no idea that this scoliosis is developing, or has developed, until one day that begin having hip pain (usually right sided) that just won’t go away, and doesn’t seem to respond to any common pain medications. They go to their family doctor who orders an x-ray where the diagnosis is finally made. Once this type of scoliosis is formed, it is very difficult to reverse since it was created essentially by bone deterioration. However, a multi-dimensional approach has been shown to be of benefit.
It is essential that people with adult degenerative scoliosis find out why their bone density is decreasing. This can be caused by a number of factors. Hormone deficiencies very commonly contribute to decreased bone density, and therefore should be replaced with a bio-identical equivalent, not the horse urine-derived Premarin or Prempro. Second, in order to maintain good bone density, the body requires a number of nutrients, not simply calcium or vitamin D, two of the more well-known bone density nutrients. Many people aren’t aware that it also requires magnesium, manganese, boron, vitamin C, phosphorus, and B vitamins. Levels of these nutrients should be checked; adult degenerative scoliosis will not improve and stay improved if they do not take the steps necessary to improve their bone density. Finally, as we age, our stomach naturally declines in its production of stomach acid, a condition known as hypochlorhydria. Since stomach acid helps to activate many of the bone density nutrients, which is required for proper absorption, replenishing stomach acid is a natural first step in the hope of reversing bone loss.
In addition to nutrient and hormone repletion, weight bearing exercise is extremely important. However, many patients with adult degenerative scoliosis have a difficult time exercising because of their pain levels. One possible solution may be whole body vibration therapy. This therapy allows the patient to stand on a vibration platform for a specified period of time several times per week. Whole body vibration causes thousands of muscle contractions every second. Therefore, as the muscles get stronger, the stress they impose upon the bones causes the body to increase bone density as an adaptation to the exercise. What is nice about whole body vibration therapy is that is doesn’t elevate your heart rate, therefore, people with cardiovascular risk factors for exercise can better tolerate whole body vibration therapy. However, before beginning a vibration therapy treatment, talk to your doctor to make sure that this exercise is right for you.
As with any informational article, this article is not intended to replace medical advice from your personal physician. For doctors trained to identify these nutrient and hormone deficiencies, please contact the International Chiropractic Scoliosis Board for more details.