One of the many applications of corticosteroid drugs is to manage the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). One of the side-effects of long-term use of corticosteroids is thinning of the bones (osteopenia). For those taking corticosteroids the Mayo Clinic recommends:
“To protect your bones, do weight-bearing exercise [strength training], avoid alcohol and don't smoke. Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements is another step you can take to help reduce the amount of bone loss caused by corticosteroids.”
Corticosteroids are often prescribed for asthma as well. I take a corticosteroid when my asthma flares. I start at 60 milligrams and taper down to 10 milligrams. Imagine taking intravenous doses of 1000 milligrams of corticosteroids for five straight days and doing that four to six times a year.
Glenn, one of our trainers, has been taking those high doses to manage his MS symptoms. In his words, he has been taking “an ungodly amount of corticosteroids” for 13 years. He is 52 years old, and he takes no calcium supplements.
The T-score on a bone density test shows how much your bone mass differs from the bone mass of an average healthy 30 year old. For Glenn’s latest bone density test they were expecting a T-score in the range of -1.5 to +1. A T-score in the range of -1 to +4 is considered normal. He was surprised to learn his test result was 3. His bones were remarkably stronger than what they expected.
Glenn began doing high intensity strength training shortly after being diagnosed with MS – once a week, for 30 minutes for more than a decade. Proper strength training is an effective treatment for osteopenia, but it is not a cure. A treatment can slow, stop or reverse a condition. As osteopenia advances to osteoporosis it becomes less reversible. Don't wait until you have osteopenia; take steps avoid the onset now. That’s what Glenn has been doing.