How can TCM help with treating osteoporosis?

Doctor's Answers (2)

Osteoporosis is a bone disease in which, the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Osteoporotic bones have lost density or mass and contain abnormal tissue structure. As bones become less dense, they weaken and are more likely to break. It is the most common reason for broken bones among the elderly. Studies have shown that approximately one in two women and one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis. From TCM point of view, the main cause of osteoporosis is due to kidney deficiency.

Long-term TCM treatments such as herbal medication can act as a preventive measure for osteoporosis because herbs have shown effectiveness in slowing down the weakening of our kidney functions as we age. Even for patients already experiencing symptoms from osteoporosis, herbal medications are also useful in relieving those symptoms as herbs can strengthen our bones and boost bone regeneration. Besides invigorating the kidneys and bones, herbs that can strengthen other organs can also be administered. Strengthening other organs to boost the kidney functions is crucial in the long-term treatment of osteoporosis. TCM treatments coupled with an active lifestyle and balanced diet, our bones will be strong and healthy even as we age.

According to TCM theory, kidney governs the growth and development of our bones. The reason why women are more prone to osteoporosis than men is because as documented in Emperor’s Inner Classic of Medicine, women’s kidney functions deteriorate faster than men. Women’s kidney functions slowly deteriorate from age 35 onwards and eventually at age 49, kidney functions are at the weakest and menopause starts. For men, their kidney functions only start to deteriorate at age 40 and reach its lowest at age 64. When our kidney functions weaken as we age, our body cannot regenerate the tissue structures within the bones fast enough to keep up with the continuous bone loss, therefore eventually resulting in porous bones.

  1. Osteoporosis can be categorized into different syndromes:
  2. Kidney and Spleen deficiency
  3. Kidney and Liver yin deficiency
  4. Kidney yin deficiency
  5. Kidney yang deficiency
  6. Kidney essence deficiency

Other possible syndromes of osteoporosis also include qi stagnation and blood stasis. Based on the patients’ symptoms, physicians will determine the syndrome of the disease and administer suitable treatment plans to suit the patients’ body constitutions and relieve the symptoms of osteoporosis. 

Suitable TCM treatment plans for the respective syndrome of osteoporosis:

  1. Kidney and Spleen deficiency

    TCM treatment plan: boost Kidney and strengthen Spleen

  2. Kidney and Liver yin deficiency

    TCM treatment plan: replenish Kidney and Liver yin

  3. Kidney yin deficiency

    TCM treatment plan: replenish Kidney yin

  4. Kidney yang deficiency

    TCM treatment plan: invigorate Kidney yang

  5. Kidney essence deficiency

    TCM treatment plan: replenish Kidney essence

According to clinical experiences, TCM treatments such as herbal medication have shown effectiveness as a preventive measure and treatment method for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is due to a degeneration process in our body. Therefore, in order to witness the TCM treatments’ efficacy, long-term treatment is required. TCM treatments coupled with an active lifestyle and balanced diet would be ideal to manage osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis means "porous bone". It is a condition where bones become brittle and more prone to fractures.

According to the theory of TCM, kidney is in charge of bone health. As we age and hit menopause/andropause, kidney qi and essence decrease significantly. This is a natural process, and our bones will become weaker.

To help osteoporosis, TCM treatment focuses on tonifying the kidney qi and essence to strengthen the bones. Herbal medication is usually prescribed for this condition. According to individual constitution, other herbs to improve circulation and tonify qi and blood may be added too.

Some common herbs to strengthen kidney and bones are du zhong 杜仲,privet fruit 女贞子,goji berry 枸杞子,deer antler鹿茸,dodder seeds 菟丝子 and epimedium淫羊藿.

I will recommend a visit to a qualified TCM practitioner to assess your body condition before starting TCM treatment.

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