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Sarah Purcell – From Reversed Osteoporosis – Bone Density Improvement

Three years ago, I received a bone density scan result that indicated my femoral neck bone density was in the Osteoporosis zone

My T score was -2.8. Although my spinal density number was better, it was still -1.7.  Bottom line: I was very  concerned. I am post menopausal and petite as well as fair skinned and small boned. These are many of the risk factors associated with developing Osteoporosis.  I was aware of my risk and thought I was doing positive things to protect myself.  Supplements and a high level of physical activity were my tools. I practiced Pilates or Yoga and walked Daily.  But, this activity was clearly not enough.

The advice I received from my Gynecologist involved taking drugs and assuring me that I could not build bone without them. I had certified in Pilates for Osteoporosis 4 years prior to my diagnosis and through that education, I had some basic knowledge about the chemistry of bone drugs.  I knew enough to confidently reject the bone drugs as a choice for me personally. The side effects alone were troublesome and the long term outlook is a complex situation depending on the drug one takes.

Additionally, I was aware of natural bone building strategies.

Studies have shown that muscles and bones are a connected system.  Strengthening your muscles with external load (weights) creates force that sends signals to the bones to build more bone as an adaptation to the force. In addition, the load is site specific. Thus, one must load at the hip, the spine, the wrist and so on to protect all these areas. There is a direct dose relationship with using load.  This means that even a little weight has some benefits (there are studies to support this.)  Heavy weight and more than once a week would create even more benefit!

An interesting and often overlooked component is that rest is required for the body to build bone. Sleep is crucial

It’s also important to know that AGE is not a barrier.  A woman can build bone at any age.

Let’s get back to the issue of a pharmaceutical solution.  If your doctor finds your bone health situation so serious that she wants you to take a very powerful drug, then your situation is serious enough to warrant a full medical workup to determine if there is an underlying medical reason for your bone loss. You may not need to build bone with drugs; there may be a separate medical issue affecting your bones. Make sure you have ruled out the medical possibilities.

After I was diagnosed, I researched natural ways to enhance the bone making process. I created a plan that my GP and I were satisfied with. We reviewed my nutrient intake and added supplementation of key elements that I needed to support bone formation. Contrary to popular belief, it takes more than calcium and vitamin D. I changed my diet to emphasize more alkaline foods (more veggies and sweet potatoes.)

Finally, I purchased a weighted vest for my daily walks.

Ideally, the goal is to wear 10% of your body weight in your vest.  I started small and built up to my goal weight. I was a good candidate for walking with a weighted vest because I am not highly kyphotic in my thoracic spine, I do not have fractures in my spine, and I do not have a history of any spine-related dysfunctions. I diligently followed a new, heartier routine for two years. You can find the weighted vest I used down below.

Two years after that diagnosis my General Practitioner ordered a second bone scan.  The results showed that I was now out of osteoporosis in my hip and I had edged my way towards getting out of osteopenia in my lumbar spine.  My femoral neck score went from -2.8 to -2.3, which is osteopenia.  My lumbar spine went from -1.7 to -1.5. I was thrilled with the positive change.

While I was walking my way to stronger bones, I was also researching weight lifting for bone health.  

As I stated previously, bone responds when you put load (weight) on it. I created a weight lifting program that I adapted from the Australian LIFTMOR study where men and women with Osteoporosis improved their bone mineral density scores with a heavy lifting program.  The study showed that heavy weight lifting can be safe for women with Osteoporosis.  

The LIFTMOR study was a  heavy resistance program with  30-minute sessions of high-intensity resistance training at 80–85% of the “1 rep max” weight — that being the weight they could only lift only once with maximum effort. The exercises included deadlift, overhead press, and back squat along with jumping chin-ups with drop landings. The study began with a month of training in form with low weight.

I built on this programming and created a progressive loading schedule for myself three times a week.  I began with light weight and skilled supervision to teach proper form.  Progressive load is the best way to create bone strength, so I would follow that process for my own program.

I will be having another bone scan and I am excited to share those results when they are in!

Below you’ll find all of my bone building steps.  

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