Osteoporosis Update

Published 9.6.2020: It's been awhile since I wrote one of these (It's been awhile since I've written anything here.), but on the occasion (or shortly afterward) of my annual meeting with my osteoporosis specialist, here we go. Note: I am not a medical professional of any sort, and I don't play one on the internet. These are my personal thoughts and opinions, in no way should they be read as recommendations about treatment.

To orient the reader, I was diagnosed with idiopathic (meaning they don't know why I got it) osteoporosis about 8 years ago. I did go through early menopause, so that's the likely reason right there. More recently, as I am now the age when women tend to get osteoporosis, the charts claim it is age related. Whatever.

I spent about 4.5 years taking bisphosphonates, but have been off the drugs since. As I am past my 5-year "vacation" date, they want me back on the drugs. Part of the reason I went off them a bit earlier than I should the last time was that my cholesterol skyrocketed while on the drugs. Conveniently, the practice where that data was taken and stored got bought out, and the new owners went for the electronic records. Despite their assurances that the old data would be entered into the online records, they were not. Thus, the only data considered is the data taken after the practice was sold… and I was already off the drugs.

The doctor did not believe my story about the cholesterol levels, and I have neglected to ask for the records from my primary care practice. In fact, last year I didn't even have an annual physical, so I don't even know what my current cholesterol levels are. I've been busy running my offline business— which explains the dearth of posting here as well— and didn't make it to my primary care practice to have an annual physical. I will be sure to do so this year.

Image of the bacl of a woman holding a barbell on her shoulder
Image from pixabay.com
So one year later, I met with the doctor again. No bone density scan this year, insurance will pay only every other year. But I did so the blood tests and urine tests requested this year. And because I didn't have my cholesterol level checked, the tests were done at the proper time. (Last year the tech did ALL the tests listed in my chart, not just the ones requested by my primary care provider. This screwed up the data big time, because instead of having numbers a year apart, the doctor had numbers 3 months apart. I will try to avoid that this year, but if it happens again, I will call and ask that they re-request the tests.

Much changed in the blood and urine results, and (I think) for the better. The doctor was more noncommittal, mostly because she wants me back on the drugs. In fact, if I was older and not as active as I am, she would be berating me more about being on some sort of medication. However, this year I actually took the time to look up the tests and what typical numbers or trends are supposed to be, and these trends are my friends. I am not going to provide any further detail on the numbers though here.

We also discussed the LIFTMOR protocol, which I decided to follow as one of my resolutions this year. The LIFTMOR protocol is a weight lifting protocol designed for post-menopausal osteoporosis sufferers, a short summary of which can be seen here. I hired a physical therapist to teach me how to lift weights properly, because I don't want to injure myself, and in March I rejoined the gym to start lifting 3 times a week.

If you went to the link provided, then you know that the actual protocol was only supposed to be for twice a week. At this point, I am aiming to go three times a week, but if I can't one week (because of holidays or whatever) then I'm still good. Although I'd lifted weights in the past — I taught myself to deadlift — this time I'm doing the full protocol, including the odd jumping exercise that they prescribe. I am all in to see if it will work for me. In the study, they found positive results after only 8 months. So my hope was to have been actively following the protocol for long enough prior to my appointment this year to have an effect on the numbers.

However, since I started in March of 2020, the reader will intuit that things did not go to plan About two weeks after I'd started, the state ordered all gyms to shut their doors. They were not permitted to reopen until late June, and I didn't go back until the beginning of July. I live in a state where mask compliance is high, and I go early in the mornings when there are few people there. I wear my mask the entire time, and I feel safe working out.

Since my appointment was in early August, I didn't really have a chance to let the protocol have an effect. That said, I think it did have an effect, and did move the numbers on the tests, and all in a positive direction.
The linked summary is not the version I provided to the doctor when we discussed the protocol, which she had never heard of. Fortuitously, the article I handed here was a short one that appeared in one of the premier osteoporosis journals— which impressed her. If I'd handed her an article that appeared in a pay to play journal, I think the reception would be have been different. Since I have no clue about osteoporosis journals, this was a happy accident.

She promised to read the article, and I allowed that if next year when I have another bone mineral density (BMD) scan the protocol hasn't made a discernible difference in my BMD, I will consider going back onto some sort of drug. I'm hopeful that the weight lifting will make a difference because in the protocol all the women who lifted gained bone density, especially in their spines. My BMD measured in my hips has bounced around a bit and improved occasionally, the BMD of my spine has not.

I'm also hopeful that I may regain the small bit of height I've lost. I did not try to stretch my neck this time when they measured me, so the slight loss this year is definitely due to that.

I enjoy the lifting very much, especially the back squats, but I do need to do a better warm up before starting the lifts. I have learned (the hard way) NOT to increase the weight I'm lifting too quickly. When I learned to lift, my trainer had a 20 lb bar that we loaded weights onto. At the gym the bar weights 45 lbs, and I can't lift that much over my head— well, I can, but it turns out that I shouldn't. The shoulder is a wondrous, but fragile joint, which I don't want to damage.

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