‘Does doctor always know best? The alternative treatment I’m trying for my osteoporosis’

Sep 01, 2019
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Mary is taking part in a research trial with Queensland's Griffith University in the hope of managing her osteoporosis. Source: Osteoporosis Australia

When my husband showed me an advertisement in the RACQ magazine, Road Ahead, calling for women to participate in a free exercise trial to help reduce the burden of osteoporotic fractures, I felt relieved. Finally, an opportunity to tap into a resource that may assist with managing my osteoporosis.

At the time I was diagnosed we were living in a country town (population approximately 16,000). Having been a fairly healthy, active person I was quite shocked when my then GP called me to say she needed to see me immediately as she had received my bone density results. She’d organised for me to have a bone density test as I was close to 60 and had never had one.

She informed me at consultation that I had the bones of an 85-year-old woman. My right hip and spine had deteriorated quite significantly. Initially the GP wanted me to commence taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Even with my limited medical knowledge, having a sister recovering from breast cancer, I knew this was not an option.

The GP wrote out a script for Protos and informed me she could be of no further assistance as I would not commence on the HRT. A couple of years prior I had previously incurred a fracture (leaning over the side of a cot picking up my grandson), which provided me with the ability to receive the script for Protos. This is a medication taken daily to assist with slowing down bone deterioration.

Thankfully, with my supportive husband and proactive daughter, who also has nursing knowledge, I was given greater awareness of the changes I needed to make in my life. It felt like a self-serve situation. Most of my understanding of osteoporosis has been from the internet.

I found a new GP who monitored the medication with routine blood tests. When I began to feel constantly nauseated my script was changed to Prolia. I receive this twice yearly by an injection to the stomach.

In 2017, we moved to Brisbane for the climate and access to the city and its services. We feel like we have won the lotto. All the resources, how amazing!

I have kept up with regular bone density scans and was due for one when my husband found the advertisement for the trial being conducted by Griffith University. The aim of the research is to see the effect of targeted exercise to reduce risk of fracture in post-menopausal women with low bone mass who may or may not be on bone medication.

I emailed the researchers to see if I was eligible for their program. Before I knew it I was undergoing an assessment, and going through the questionnaire and interview process.

The questionnaire was quite detailed, the interview went through my medical and family history. I remember being asked what I hoped to gain from the program. I was completely honest, I wanted knowledge. What an opportunity to be with people researching how to improve a condition that is so debilitating and achieving positive results personally.

The program recruits people who are randomly allocated to either Pilates or weights classes. Thankfully I met the necessary criteria and was allocated to the weights program. My only experience with weights was in the gym doing circuit classes, so this was quite daunting. I was required to commit to two sessions a week for eight months.

Our small group attend two mornings a week to a fully supervised weights training sessions on alternate days. The Griffith research team supervise and are mindful of a safe training environment, so numbers are small, and our weights are gradually increased when they are comfortable with our level of technique. The aim is to load up more weight each week.

I love it. Even though it is a 45-minute commute from my home, I have time to read and catch up on the news. The weights training is hard, like any training commitment, though I can feel myself becoming stronger.

I’ve been lucky too in that from day one our group ‘clicked’. I’ve met two ladies close in age to me with similar expectations from the commitment. They are also surprised at the weight they are lifting. I feel we will remain friends. My husband has commented how happy I am after the session.

It will be interesting to hear the overall findings of the study. I hope my results will be positive. My dream would be to remove or reduce my medication and replace it with a structured exercise session.

The MEDEX-OP trial takes place in Brisbane and is recruiting post-menopausal women who take bone medications (Fosamax, Actonel, Aclasta or Prolia). Please contact Melanie Fischbacher or visit the website. There is also a study taking place at the Gold Coast, called the VIBMOR trial. The VIBMOR trial is recruiting women over the age of 60 years who can be either on or off bone medication. To find out more, please contact Rossana or Meret or go to the study website.

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