Can A Non-Drug Osteoporosis Treatment Program Work?

Many persons with osteoporosis or osteopenia are apprehensive about drug therapy for it given either the known adverse effects or, for some, a previously experienced adverse effect.  Not treating the disease, however, is not a wise option given the tendency for potentially debilitating fracture to occur.  So, the question is, what other effective treatment options are available?

Perhaps the first thing to do in this discussion is to define effective regarding osteoporosis.  The different classes of drug therapies have been shown to increase bone mineral density (BMD) 5-12% in 1-2 years.  This is considered a good therapeutic effect as it reduces fracture risk significantly. 

Regarding non-drug options, interesting research in this area is being productive.  Two unique areas of supplementation have been found to significantly help bone density.  The first is a supplement of bone morphogenic proteins (BMPs).  BMPs are bone growth factors that are in bone matrix.  They have been used for several years in treating complex fractures to stimulate osteoblasts that repair bone.  They are now available in an oral supplement and have been shown to improve bone density in a case series about 15% over 2-5 years.(1)

A second area of supplementation is with specific collagen peptides.  These are collagen peptides that are created by a complex hydrolysis of larger collagen fibers.  The process results in very small collagen peptides that have a high affinity for repairing bone collagen matrix.  Subjects in a study of this therapy randomized patients to a specific collagen peptide group or to a placebo.  While BMD declined 1-1.5% in 1 year in the placebo groups, it improved by 3% in the spine and 7% in the hips in the specific collagen peptide group.(2)

Two forms of therapy modalities have been shown to be particularly helpful in improving bone mineral density.  The first is infrared laser therapy.  In a trial comparing laser therapy to the lumbar spine for 3 months to pulsed electromagnetic frequency therapy (PEMF) and to a control group found both laser and PEMF therapy effective.(3)   While the control group had a further decline in bone mineral density of 2% at follow-up, it improved 17% in the laser group.  The PEMF therapy group had a striking 39% improvement in BMD.

A second trial compared PEMF therapy to physical therapy in the hip in 82 women who sustained spine fractures requiring surgical repair.(4)  The immobility associated with rehabilitation from surgery has been shown to worsen bone density loss in the hip.  While the physical therapy group showed a 10% improvement in hip BMD, the PEMF therapy group had a 37% increase.

The Fisiofield Maxi PEMF unit shown to the left is the unit used in the trials mentioned and what we use in our clinic.  The large magnetic solenoid shown slides along the table to be positioned over the spine.  Additional smaller solenoids are placed on the hips.

A good program combining supplementation with therapies that have been shown to effectively improve bone density can yield significant improvement comparable and perhaps somewhat greater than that shown typically with drug therapy.  For those concerned about the potential adverse effects from drug therapy, or for those who have experienced an adverse effect preventing continuing drug therapy, a good non-drug therapy program is an effective option.

  1. Tripodi D.  OSTEOINDUCTIVE EFFECTS OF CYPLEXINOL IN THE MANAGEMENT OF OSTEOPOROSIS: A CASE SERIES.  Altern Ther Health Med, 2017 Nov;23(6):42-47.
  2. K├Ânig  et al.  DENSITY AND BONE MARKERS IN POSTMENOPAUSAL WOMEN-A RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED STUDY.  Nutrients, 2018;10:97.
  3. Abdelaal et al.  EFFECT OF PULSED ELECTROMAGNETIC THERAPY VERSUS LOW-LEVEL LASER THERAPY ON BONE MINERAL DENSITY IN THE ELDERLY WITH PRIMARY OSTEOPOROSIS: A RANDOMIZED, CONTROLLED TRIAL.  Bull Fac Phys Ther, 2019;22:34-39.
  4. Liu et al. PULSED ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELD AFFECTS THE DEVELOPMENT OF POSTMENOPAUSAL OSTEOPOROTIC WOMEN WITH VERTEBRAL FRACTURES.  Biomed Res Int, 2021:2021:4650057.