About your bones …

Updated at end of story, Thursday, May 28:

May is Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, a fact I only learned about late last week. And while the month is nearly over, awareness of this insidious, invisible, potentially devastating and even deadly disease is important all year ’round, not just in May.

Your bones are alive. A healthy body replaces dying bone tissue with new, strong, healthy bone tissue. But osteoporosis causes the bones to lose tissue faster than the body can replace it. The resulting brittle, lattice-like bone structure breaks easily. Even something as simple and everyday as bending over or coughing can cause an osteoporotic fracture.


A broken bone is difficult for anyone. But for the elderly or those with compromised health, it can mean catastrophe: loss of independence, permanent disability, or even death. The most common fractures occur in the hips, wrists, and spine.

According to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), about 4.5 million women and a little over a million men over the age of 50 have osteoporosis. It’s a “silent” disease; there are no symptoms. Most people don’t know they have it until they break a bone. You’re at higher risk of osteoporosis if:

  • you’re of older age (over 30, but more commonly over 50);
  • you’re female;
  • you have a non-Hispanic white or Asian ethnic background;
  • you have lowered sex hormone levels (mainly estrogen loss during menopause and after);
  • you have a small bone structure;
  • you have a family history of osteoporosis;
  • you have inflammatory arthritis (rheumatoid disease, ankylosing spondylitis, etc.);
  • you take certain medications, such as corticosteroids;
  • you smoke cigarettes
  • you drink alcohol to excess. More risk factors can be found here.

There are some pro-active and simple steps you can take to avoid osteoporosis, or to treat it if you already have it:

  • If you smoke, stop. Smoking hastens bone loss.
  • Limit alcohol to three or fewer drinks per day.
  • make sure you’re getting enough Vit. D from your diet, sun exposure (but be wary of sunburn) or from supplements. Vit. D works in tandem with calcium throughout the body in many different ways, including building healthy bone tissue.
  • Do weight-bearing exercise regularly. It can be as simple as brisk walking for a half hour a day, five days a week, or doing gentle weight training or resistance exercises for the same amount of time. Many people mix them: walking one day, exercising the next, or 15 minutes of one, then 15 minutes of the other each day. Exercise is vital to build and strengthen bone tissue and to build and strengthen the muscles that support the joints and bones. Note: Tai Chi and yoga are excellent forms of exercise for osteoporosis. They strengthen muscles and bone, and they improve your balance, making falls much less likely.

Once osteoporosis is diagnosed, treatment is available in the form of medications, too. Some, called bisphosphonates, slow bone loss. They include such well-known drugs as Fosamax and Boniva. Other drugs may include Calcitonin or selective hormone replacement therapy.

Rheumatoid disease can cause changes in the bones that can make osteoporosis more likely to occur. It’s smart to have your bones scanned to determine you bone mineral density, or BMD, According to the ACR, “dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (referred to as DXA or DEXA and pronounced ‘dex-uh’) is the best current test to measure BMD. The test is quick and painless. It is similar to an X-ray, but uses much less radiation.”

Unfortunately, osteoporosis can sometimes lead to the need for knee or hip replacements. The American Recall Center has asked me to let you know that one option for knee replacements, the Zimmer Persona Tibial Plate, has been recalled due to issues that have forced some people back into surgery. To learn more about this, visit http://www.recallcenter.com/zimmer-persona-knee-replacement/ **

For further information, visit the ACR’s osteoporosis web page, or see the National Institutes of Health’s RA/Osteoporosis web page,

**UPDATE:  With the unfortunate weakening of the bones, sometimes osteoporosis can lead to knee or hip replacements. Be sure to always treat any surgery with care and ask appropriate questions. Do your research on the device that’s going to be put in. There has been a few recalls on these, the Zimmer persona knee recall being one for the loosening of the tibial plate. Mishaps like these can happen, which is why it’s important to get educated.

Pain and honey

I went out to lunch with my Mom yesterday. Unsure of what we wanted to eat, we ended up going to old town Folsom (yes, the same one that’s named in the famous “Folsom Prison Blues”). After considering and rejecting an American café-style meal, a heavy European meal, and spicy Mexican food, we decided upon Hop Sing’s Palace and had a delicious Chinese lunch for a price I hadn’t seen since the late 90s. Mom even had a glass of wine.

Afterwards we wandered up and down the raised, Old West-style boardwalks, browsing the gift and antique shops. The day was cloudy and cool, very pleasant. There were quite a few people out and about, which surprised me until I remembered it was Veteran’s Day, and anyone with a government job was off work for the day.

It was really nice – except that I couldn’t figure out a way to carry my handbag without making my hands cry. I ended up hanging it on my forearm (the straps aren’t long enough for my shoulder). It worked, but made me feel awkward and clumsy as I moved up and down the narrow aisles in the tiny shops, trying desperately not to knock anything over.

I was getting tired and cranky and trying not to show it.

It was in the last shop we visited that I saw a small display for a line ofbaklava_close_up hand and body creams made in Idaho. I’m not usually real interested in hand creams – most of them make my hands and fingers feel greasy, which I hate. But my hands, sore as they’ve been, have also been very dry and itchy lately. So I tried one of the samplers.

You know how those singular “moments” can sneak up and just surprise the heck out of you? Well, this was one of those for me. The cream, made with glycerin and an eclectic combination of flowers and herbs, was warm and soothing on my achy hands. As I rubbed it in, massaging them gently, it sank into my skin, so it felt silky and soft, but not greasy at all. For a brief time, the world slowed down as I took care of my hurts and the scent of the hand cream rose into my nostrils. Honey. It smelled like honey. It smelled like warm baklava tastes.

Well, that was it. I bought a tube of the stuff. I’ve rubbed it into my hands three times since yesterday, and each time it felt heavenly, though the sweet scent is a bit more overpowering here at home than it seemed in the shop. That’s all right, though. It beats the scent of Deep Heating Rub!

My hands are swollen and painful again today. I haven’t gone to the gym since last Friday. I can’t face using them to push and pull and brace myself on the exercise machines, though I have done some walking. But man, I’m just feeling flattened – I guess from not sleeping well and from the continuous, unrelenting pain, which is making me worry. I also feel guilty for letting the rheuma get me down and keep me from doing things I know I should do. This is not good.

The new meds my rheumatologist prescribed for pain and insomnia haven’t arrived in my mailbox yet. I hardly dare hope they’ll be there today when I check, but I do have a little more hope for tomorrow. And I’m hoping, too, that this awful, low-level but unrelenting flare will ease off soon. Some days I just don’t have the wherewithal to stay upbeat, hard as I try.

Yeah, I know. Stiff upper lip and all that. Nothing that a good night’s sleep won’t help! (That’s an absolutely truism, that one.) Well, I’m working on it, OK? But for the moment, I’m going to rub honey-glycerin cream into my hands and wallow. I’m sure I’ll feel better tomorrow.

Always do.


It’s a little after 7 a.m. I’m waiting my turn in the bathroom (daughter is prepping for work, son-in-law-to-be is heading out with her on his way to a physical therapy appointment. When they’re done, I’ll dress in my workout clothes and head to the gym for my 45 minutes of strength-and-cardio training.

I’m a little apprehensive this morning. My right pointer-finger is full of a nauseous ache; the other fingers are twingy and sensitive, as usual. And of course, all of the resistance machines involved in my workout require my hands – some actively, others as braces.

So how will I do? I’m enjoying these workouts. They’re vital for any numberexercise-cartoon of reasons – toning flabby muscles, working and strengthening my body and heart, burning calories, lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels without additional drugs. As I get stronger, I’m counting on the fact that strengthening my muscles will be beneficial as I deal with rheuma flares. I’ve doubted, a little, the fact that the rheuma is active and “severe” again (as my rheumatologist describes it) because until recently, it’s been mostly in my hands and mostly twingy.

But I don’t doubt anymore. Each day, each week re-introduces a heightened level of pain. Bathroom is free. Can’t put it off any longer. I’ll check in later.

Update: Well, that wasn’t so bad. Sure, that particular finger is shouting at me right now and my hands are sore, as usual, but I can deal with this. Today, the rheuma didn’t stop me from moving anything — which pleases me to no end. Really. The icing on the cake is that I worked all my muscles, got sweaty and kept my heart rate up and steady for a little over a half-hour. And the icing on the icing? I had fun.

Wonders never cease.