Orthopedic Advice: Better Bones for Better Health
Updated: Apr 25
Taking care of your skeletal framework
The human skeleton is a complex and fascinating system that plays a crucial role in the body's overall structure and function. It is the internal framework of the body, consisting of 206 bones connected by joints, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. The skeleton provides support and protection for the body's organs, allows for movement, and serves as a storage site for minerals such as calcium and phosphorus.
Just in the past 15 years, bone research has discovered more about bone metabolism – the way they work, grow, rebuild, weaken, and break. Some people are at higher risk for osteoporosis, the thinning of bones, because their body loses bone mass and/or does not sufficiently rebuild bone. According to the National Institutes of Health, half of all Americans over the age of 50 have weak bones (also called osteopenia or low bone mass). The good news is that bone health can be improved and strengthened at any age.
Bone is a living tissue that is constantly changing and ‘modeling’. The skeleton remodels, or regenerates, itself about every 10 years, by removing old bone and replacing bone tissue. As we age, the remodeling process can get out of balance, resulting in loss of structure and strength, and lead to bone diseases such as osteoporosis. In addition to aging, genetics, nutrition, exercise, and hormones also affect bone health.
So, What is the best way to keep this system functioning smoothly as we age?
Be active. Weight-bearing exercises help build strong bones, and in general, adults should be active at least 30 minutes daily.
Maintain a healthy weight. Overweight individuals may be more prone to falling, and being underweight increases the risk of bone loss and fracture.
Eat a healthy diet. This includes getting enough calcium and Vitamin D.
Don’t smoke. In addition to so many other adverse health effects, smoking reduces bone mass and inhibits bone-forming cells.
Limit alcohol intake. Chronic heavy drinking of alcohol reduces bone mass and increases your risk of falls and fracture. It’s also a significant risk factor for osteoporosis.
Consider taking supplements for bone. Talk to your doctor about special medications and supplements available to slow bone loss and increase bone strength, in addition to calcium and Vitamin D.
It’s also important to be proactive about your individual risk for fracture and bone loss. Risk factors for fracture include age, smoking, your history of falls, diabetes, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, certain medications that can affect bone loss, and your current bone density. The test for measuring bone density is dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). It is quick and painless. Genetics plays a large role in bone health, either because osteoporosis runs in your family, or you have a higher rate of bone turnover because of hormonal changes or aging. Bone metabolism testing can provide more information about your risk for fracture and whether osteoporosis medication is for you.
Orthopedic medicine is a branch of medicine that deals with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders, which include injuries and diseases of the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, nerves, and tendons. Orthopedic doctors, also known as orthopedists, are trained to provide medical and surgical treatments for a wide range of orthopedic injuries and conditions.
Orthopedic injuries can be caused by trauma, overuse, degenerative changes, and genetic predisposition. The most common injuries include:
· Fracture. This is a break in a bone often caused by trauma or sudden impact.
· Sprains/strains. A sprain is an injury to a ligament, while a strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon. Both can be caused by overuse or by being overstretched.
· Dislocation. This occurs when a bone is forced out of its normal position (because of trauma).
· Tendinitis/tendinosis. Tendinitis is inflammation of a tendon, while tendinosis is the degeneration of the collagen in a tendon because of chronic overuse without giving the tendon time to heal and rest.
· Arthritis. A condition characterized by inflammation of the joints, which causes pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. Nearly 25% of the American population has arthritis.
Treatment for orthopedic injuries and conditions can vary depending on the severity and location. First-line nonsurgical treatments include rest, physical therapy, and pain management with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If surgery is the best option, orthopedic surgeons can perform anything from minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery (using a camera attached to small instruments) to complex joint replacements. The most common orthopedic surgeries are anterior cruciate ligament (or ACL) reconstruction, knee replacement (either partial or total), hip replacement, and various arthroscopic surgeries, such as knee and shoulder arthroscopy. In fact, a 2007 study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery estimates a 673% increase in demand for knee replacements in less than 10 years.
Orthopedic medicine plays an important role in helping people recover from injuries and regain their mobility and quality of life. If you have an orthopedic injury, it's important to seek medical attention from a qualified orthopedic doctor.
Hardin Medical Center (HMC) and Tennessee River Physician Services are proud that Dr. Douglas Freels is now on staff providing quality orthopedic services. Learn more about Dr. Freels and the services he provides
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