Preventing Osteoporosis

Bone density, osteoporosis? (definition: when the bones become increasingly porous, brittle, and subject to fracture, owing to loss of calcium and other mineral components). Why should you care about this now that you have a spinal cord injury? It’s no fun thinking that you’re suddenly susceptible to “old people diseases,” but after a spinal cord injury, your bone health becomes incredibly important.

The reason why? You’re not walking anymore. When our bones stop getting the pressure they need, the calcium slowly goes away. Since we’re already at high risk of things like falling out of our chairs, accidental fractures can happen all too often after sustaining a SCI.

Because of our new sitting lifestyle, a higher risk of fractures is a plain reality. Being female can also make osteoporosis worse. This means that preventative care is very important. If you stay on top of this, you hopefully won’t have to deal with a fracture anytime in your future. There are four important ways you can prevent osteoporosis. Read below to learn how.

Use Your Standing Frame

You will want to get a standing frame if you do not have one already. Most insurance plans cover them, so make sure to look into securing one ASAP. IGetting strapped into a frame to stand upright may not be fun, but if you stand for at least 1 hour a day, you can prevent osteoporosis from affecting your bones.

There are many different kinds of standing frames available. There is even a model that moves your legs in an elliptical-like fashion to get your blood flowing. EasyStand, based in Minnesota, is one of the most well-known manufacturers of standing frames.

Vitamin D

Getting plenty of vitamin D is hugely important to your bone health. Calcium used to be the main mineral pushed by nurses and doctors in order to prevent osteoporosis, but now they’ve found that calcium can cause kidney and bladder stones in people with spinal cord injuries. Taking vitamin D supplements everyday instead is recommended. You can also meet your vitamin D needs by sitting in the sun for 5 to 15 minutes each day.

Watch Your Diet

Spinach and leafy greens are foods you should start eating in high doses. They have high levels of calcium that aren’t from animals, which means they won’t cause stones as easily. You’ll also want to be careful of eating too much protein, which makes it harder for your body to absorb calcium. Avoiding your caffeine levels also helps with bone health. A cup of coffee each day is okay, but 3 cups of coffee or soda all day long makes it hard for your body to retain any kind of calcium or vitamin D.

Yearly DEXA Scan

Another thing you need to do to protect your bone health is get your bones scanned every year to check your bone density levels. A DEXA scan is a simple body scan that only takes a few minutes, and it shows your doctor which bones in your body are losing their density. Remember, be as active as possible. Exercising, playing sports, and moving whatever you can on your body will help your bones retain their density.

Please watch the following video on osteoporosis after a SCI, and afterwards, read the Takeaway Points below.

Video: PART 1 Calcium and Nutrition for Spinal Cord Injuries

Takeaway Points

  • Osteoporosis is when the calcium in the bones seeps into the blood due to not walking, leaving the bones to be easily breakable over time
  • Using a standing frame for an hour each day can help prevent osteoporosis
  • Daily vitamin D supplements are critical in helping keep bones strong post-SCI
  • Avoid getting calcium from dairy so you can prevent urinary stones
  • Instead, look to spinach and other leafy greens to get your calcium intake
  • Make sure to get a DEXA scan each year to check your bone density levels
  • Heterotopic ossification can occur to muscle/joint areas, with bone deposits left in its wake

Helpful Resources

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Spinal Cord Injury
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