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The Amazingly Simple Way To Prevent Compression Fractures Of The Spine

compression-fracture

Regardless of your bone density, your number one bone health goal should be to avoid fractures. This applies not only to large bones, but also to the dreaded and painful compression fractures of the spine.

The vast majority of vertebral compression fractures occur in the middle and lower back. In some cases, they can occur when doing menial tasks, such as picking up an object off the floor, sneezing, coughing, or even bumping into something. But these types of fractures can be prevented.

Today, I’m thrilled to share with you an amazingly simple exercise that helps keep your vertebrae aligned and the muscles of your back strong and supple and we’ll explore this very important topic in-depth.

Defining a Compression Fracture

Your spine is really amazing. It is at once strong and flexible, able to bend, move, and rotate while stabilizing your entire body. Not all of the vertebrae that make up your spine are the same – they are divided into four basic groups: cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back and shoulders), lumbar (mid and lower back), and the sacrum. Most compression fractures happen in the lower thoracic or upper lumbar vertebrae, and they often involve more than one vertebra.

In a healthy spine, a compression fracture only occurs as a result of severe trauma, such as a car accident or very long fall (off a ladder or roof, for instance). But for those with severe osteoporosis, much less traumatic force can cause a compression fracture.

At first, compression fractures may not be terribly painful, but they may be excruciating right away. Symptoms range from extreme pain to limited motion and even numbness. Sometimes the major symptom is a loss of height, poor posture, and/or back pain.

Avoiding the Pain and Disability of Compression Fractures

Not only can compression fractures cause intense pain, but they can lead to kyphosis (Dowager’s Hump), compressed abdominal space, and compromised circulatory and digestive function. This in turn can cause interruption of nerve impulses and loss of height.

Additionally, a 1999 study showed that compression fractures of the spine can put you at risk for sustaining even more fractures. 1

The good news is that there’s something quite simple you can do to help avoid compression fractures, especially if it’s practiced in conjunction with a bone-healthy diet and exercise program, as described in the Save Our Bones Program.

Stretching Your Spine Helps Your Bones and Overall Health

The health benefits of stretching are numerous and significant:

  • Reduces back pain
  • Reduces tension in your muscles
  • Reduces stress, and by extension, the illnesses associated with it
  • Improves circulation
  • Increases energy and overall well-being
  • Provides greater flexibility
  • Decreases inflammation
  • Improves posture

Stretching Helps Keep the Spinal Vertebrae Aligned

It also maintains the muscles of the back supple and relaxed. It’s easy to think that tense, contracted muscles would do a better job of stabilizing the spine, but in reality, chronically contracted muscles tend to pull vertebrae out of alignment, contributing to back pain and setting the stage for breakage.

Strong, aligned vertebrae are less likely to fracture, and supple muscles can absorb shock much better than rigid ones.
And now, I want to share with you an exercise for strengthening and stretching your back. It’s a simple stretch you can do just about anywhere. All you need is a chair!

Back Stretch

  1. Stand facing the back of a chair with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Take hold of the chair back with your hands. You should be leaning forward a bit.
  3. Keeping your back straight, move your body forward at the hips. It’s okay if you need to bend your knees a little.
  4. Keep moving your body down until you feel a stretch in your shoulders and along your back. Your back will probably end up parallel with the ground, or your head may even go below your shoulders.
  5. Hold that position for one minute and repeat as many times as you wish.

Till next time,

References

1 Melton LJ 3d, Atkinson EJ, Cooper C, O’Fallon WM, Riggs BL. “Vertebral fractures predict subsequent fractures.” Osteoporosis Int. 1999;10:214–21.

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44 comments. Leave Yours Now →

  1. LynnCS July 27, 2014, 12:50 am

    Hi Vivian. Thanks so much for these posts. I really like this stretch and figured it out from the drawing. I agree the instructions are not clear.

    My doctor wants me to use Forteo. My insurance co. denied me. I’m sure they want me to take something cheaper. I took Actonel for years till I learned that it wasn’t good. As much as I try to fix this problem, it is worse. I exercise but not sure what else I could do, so the doctor is working on getting me on Forteo. I know what you said about the black box warning so I’m very torn and afraid. After a number of breaks, I need to do something. Help!

  2. Mary McCloskey February 12, 2014, 6:29 am

    Would like your opinion on Raw Calcium. My Dr. has told me that current thinking is NOT to take calcium supplements as it can contribute to plaque in arteries . I thought that this thinking did not apply to calcium supplements made from raw whole foods. What is your take on this controversy?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA February 12, 2014, 8:34 am

      Hi Mary,
      I have written several posts on this topic that you might find interesting. :) Here is a link to the most comprehensive one:

      http://saveourbones.com/calcium-heart-attack/

      If you want to read more, feel free to use the Search feature! Just type “heart attack” or something similar in Search box and you’ll see everything I’ve written on that topic. :)

  3. Mary Anne February 6, 2014, 12:54 am

    Hi Vivian,

    I am very appreciative of all the wonderful information, support, and encouragement your website and daily emails provide regarding osteoporosis, but I have to say I am very concerned that doing this exercise today may have caused a vertebral fracture. I have read from other resources that individuals who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis of the spine (and I have) should avoid any exercises or activities that involve bending forward. I have been very conscientious about this in my exercise routines so far, but thought because this exercise was promoted on your osteoporosis website to avoid vertebral fractures that this might be an exception to that rule. Today almost immediately after I did this exercise I am experiencing severe pain in my thoracic area, something I’ve never had before. Can you please tell me if this exercise is evidence-based, and if so what research indicates that this is a safe and effective exercise for those diagnosed with osteoporosis. I am extremely worried and discouraged, along with experiencing severe pain.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA February 6, 2014, 7:34 am

      Mary Anne, you might have stretched a bit too strenuously or you might have used muscles you haven’t used in a while… so try to be really cautious next time you practice this exercise. And if the pain or discomfort continues, please check with your doctor or physical therapist :)

      • A.P. May 30, 2014, 3:02 pm

        I think it is important to notice even here what Vivian later also wrote (the last sentence):

        “Vivian Goldschmidt, MA
        May 29, 2014, 10:28 am

        Here’s a great stretch to prevent compression fractures:
        http://saveourbones.com/the-amazingly-simple-way-to-prevent-compression-fractures-of-the-spine/

        If you’ve had compression fractures in the past, make sure you check with your health practitioner before you practice the stretch.”

        I wrote a comment :
        May 30, 2014, 1:43 pm

        I have read that sometimes it can be difficult to know if one has a compression fracture as many compression fractures are painless. (Compressionfractures can of course be painful, too.)

  4. Winnifred Manfreid February 2, 2014, 10:01 pm

    I was told by my endocrinoglogist a yr ago that I had osteopenia in my hip area
    she said to get a weighted vest . I did research and found something that is better
    I got weighted shorts they are not bulky and I wear them under clothing
    My doctor said that I no longer have osteopenia in the hip area and that I turned it around thank you Vivian for telling us of the importance of weight bearing workouts
    to see those shorts see nyknyc weighted shorts for women . they do work!

  5. Clint January 31, 2014, 3:20 am

    With all of the problems with bones being discussed, it seems that somewhere it should be noted that one of the primary causes of soft bones is milk. Although milk contains calcium, it also reduces the bodies pH. The pH generally lowers more than can be corrected by the calcium in the milk requiring the body to extract calcium from bones and other sources in order to recover to a proper pH.

  6. Nora January 30, 2014, 10:44 pm

    I just read your article about compression fracture and wondered if I just experienced one. I work up Sunday morning with excruciating lower back pain. The pain is so intense, I could barely walk. It hurt so bad to cough, sneeze, or even with a slight bending motion. I had to skip going to the gym for 5 days. I’m only 42 but have been diagnosed with osteoporosis in my late 30s. I took boniva for two years and stopped after reading all the research on the medication. I am a RN and dread going to work having to lift patients that are three times my weight. My back feels so much better today and I’m going back to the gym tomorrow. I still can’t bend over without having intense pain. Hopefully, it’ll resolve in a few days.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA January 31, 2014, 10:33 am

      Nora, if you suspect a compression fracture, definitely have yourself evaluated by your doctor! He or she can tell for sure if that’s what is going on, or if it’s something else. :)

  7. JsdR January 30, 2014, 12:48 pm

    I am female 66 with severe scoliosis a double curve. No real pain just some discomfort when I sweep or work in my yard or stand too long. I am very active, walk, run,
    sit ups, hand weights. Just diagnosed with sever osteoporosis -4.9. Internist put me on boniva( taken it for
    about 4 months) endocrinologist recommended Foeteo.
    Side effects plus the injections make me very uncomfortable. I stop with the rock calcium and started
    Algaecal with Strontium boost. What would you recommend? Feel like I maybe disabled if I do not do something. MRI shows I have no fractures.
    JsdR

    • Anonymous February 2, 2014, 5:32 am

      Dear JsdR
      If you by sit ups mean a movement beginning with lying on your back and then rising up to a sitting position, you should NOT do sit ups. For a person with osteoporosis this kind of movement can have negative consequences.
      Even running can be negative for someone with osteoporosis (especially with your T-score -4.9).
      Best wishes from A.P.

  8. Sue January 29, 2014, 8:50 pm

    I’ve been using Stevia and I’m concerned about its safety. Have read that it’s overprocessed and could be harmful. I read because it’s super sweet it can cause a craving for sweets. I have personally found that to be true.

  9. Sharon January 28, 2014, 8:11 pm

    I actually started doing something similar to this exercise years ago. I have fibromyalgia and get tired when I hold my arms out too long while doing tasks such as dishes or folding laundry. Arms, neck, shoulders, and back hurt so bad I have to stop. I found that I could just back away from the counter with my hands holding on to the edge and bend down to form a right angle with my legs. Stretch the entire back for a few seconds or more and it relieves so much tension. Never thought about it helping my vertebrae also. Thanks!

  10. zee begg January 28, 2014, 5:55 pm

    Re Stretch, I am confused like : Susan Broman January 28, 2014, 1:28 am

    Re stretch exercise using back of chair. Not sure about the instructions. It says move your body “forward” and on the next line “down”. Should my arms bend as I lean towards the chair? My arms and shoulders got a workout. Could you please clarify the exercise? Many thanks.
    I need clarification too please
    Zee Begg

  11. zee begg January 28, 2014, 5:53 pm

    Re Stretch, I am confused like : Susan Broman January 28, 2014, 1:28 am

    Re stretch exercise using back of chair. Not sure about the instructions. It says move your body “forward” and on the next line “down”. Should my arms bend as I lean towards the chair? My arms and shoulders got a workout. Could you please clarify the exercise? Many thanks.
    I need clarification too please
    Sue Broman

  12. Cherie Postill January 28, 2014, 5:29 pm

    Thanks again Vivian, you always have such important information that can save us all a lot of pain! This exercise makes me feel great and is so easy. Just a note to those that have back pain, My son purchased an inversion table a year ago after a serious accident and months of PT and the results are amazing! Every family member uses the table and my sons chiropractor showed us the improvement thru x-rays. A bit expensive but worth the investment for us. Always ask your doctor before trying this, not recommended if you have high blood pressure.

  13. Susan Broman January 28, 2014, 1:28 am

    Re stretch exercise using back of chair. Not sure about the instructions. It says move your body “forward” and on the next line “down”. Should my arms bend as I lean towards the chair? My arms and shoulders got a workout. Could you please clarify the exercise? Many thanks.

    Sue Broman

  14. Nu Ly January 28, 2014, 1:28 am

    I have bought JESSE CANNON’ES book, let me review it again, sometimes small
    exercise I neglected it , thanks.

  15. shula January 28, 2014, 1:10 am

    Thank you, Vivian, this exercise looks simple, and easy to do.

  16. Barbara Nelson January 28, 2014, 12:39 am

    I just wanted to say that JESSE CANNON’ES BOOK IS AWESOME! So glad I was lucky enough to get a free copy.

    • Betty January 30, 2014, 1:13 pm

      I would like to know about Jesse Cannon’s book. Was it advertised on SOB?
      Thanks.

  17. Marilyn Davies January 27, 2014, 8:14 pm

    Hi
    I have just one question for you after reading your wonderful book. If I’m on anti seizure medication which I’m unable ever to come off, will the natural programme work for me when I already have full osteoporosis of both spine and hip. I’m 63. — my doctor is open and interested in your book, but is extremely concerned only due to this ongoing factor….. I’m on all of the correct supplements, exercising and endeavouring to remain as close to alkaline basis as I can (for the last few months around 6.2 through to 7.4) (morning check)….would sorely appreciate your comments based on your medical knowledge and your own experience.

    Thank you

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA January 27, 2014, 8:36 pm

      Marilyn, your seizure medication can be considered one more acidifying drug, so following the 80/20 balance is a perfect solution! Even patients taking bone-depleting drugs like corticosteroids have been successful while on the Save Our Bones Program. You can check Real Life Success Stories here:

      http://saveourbones.com/program/results/

      Best of luck going forward!

  18. Sue January 27, 2014, 6:55 pm

    My question of January 23rd was not answered. I realize you receive lots of e-mails so should I stop looking for a reply after a certain amount of time?

    • Customer Support January 27, 2014, 8:34 pm

      We’re sorry, Sue! It looks like your e-mail didn’t make it into our inbox. You are welcome to try again at support@saveourbones.com, or click on the smiley face icon at the bottom of the page. We’ll be glad to help you!

  19. Carole January 27, 2014, 3:42 pm

    Hi everyone,
    I just thought I would share something I have started recently. When lying in bed Sloowly stretch your limbs gently starting from the feet and legs then up the body Sloowly, then the upper torso, shoulders pressed onto the mattress and relax, then gently neck upwards always with Slow movements. If done correctly you should feel the way a cat feels after a good stretch. I watched our friendly neighbourhood cat who comes for a feed and a sleep sometimes and when he awakens he always has a good stretch and I thought ‘That must feel great’! And do you know what? It does for me!

    • betty January 30, 2014, 1:20 pm

      Thanks for the reminder. I do this sometimes and it feels good. Will try to do it more often.

  20. John Tagg January 27, 2014, 1:56 pm

    I ordered THE 7-DAY BACK PAIN CURE BUT THE ORDER FROZE AND DID NOT GO OUT. PLEASE COMMENT?

    Elizaeth.

    • Customer Support January 27, 2014, 5:11 pm

      John, I am sorry you had trouble ordering the book! I suggest you contact them and let them know you’re having problems placing your order. You can find their contact information at this link:
      http://www.losethebackpain.com/contact-us/

  21. Ann January 27, 2014, 1:23 pm

    I order this book a long time ago but it didn’t help me at all. I have a curved spine which presses against the sciatic nerve which causes my pain. I do a certain stretch every morning before getting out of bed and that is the best help I have gotten.

  22. Rosemary January 27, 2014, 1:02 pm

    A health club I once attended had a chair that stretched the back. I held on to weighted straps and bent forward. The resistance could be adjusted.

    I’ve been looking for a chair like that ever since the club closed.

    It’s out there.

  23. Lupita Diaz January 27, 2014, 10:20 am

    hello
    I tried to submit credit info to get the physical book by Jesse Cannon sent but the computer freezes and does not allow for the transaction to complete. I do agree that there are a lot of pop up additional advertisements that distract from reading the email information you are sending. It is annoying and leaves a unprofessional feeling regarding your information.
    Thx
    Lupita

  24. Helena January 27, 2014, 8:50 am

    I thought I would try this as I had 2 compression fractures 19 months ago. As I was stretching and lowering I became very dizzy, so had to stop. It was when I lowered my head. So any other bright Ideas?

  25. Rachel January 27, 2014, 8:35 am

    Thank you, Vivian for another simple exercise that goes a long way in the health of the spine. I commend you for giving us exercise techniques that do not require fancy equipment.

  26. Linda Sullivan January 27, 2014, 8:19 am

    Sadly, I must unsubscribe for 2 reasons. When I click your links in emails my computers freeze. Plus I do NOT LIKE the advertisement being the very first thing you see when it finally unfreezes and loads up that says:
    The Top 14 Things You’re Doing That Are Damaging Your Bones… And More!
    Linda

    • Customer Support January 27, 2014, 1:12 pm

      We’ll miss you, Linda! To unsubscribe, simply scroll down to the very bottom of any of Vivian’s emails, and you’ll see the following message:

      “Change Subscriber Options” (there is a blue link there that you click on and it will take you to the unsubscribe page).

  27. lynda January 27, 2014, 5:10 am

    Suggest you read the comments on Amazon before sending off for this book. It scores 2.5 and apparently contains marketing of equipment and is poor on information or explanations .
    The last thing we need !

    • Christie January 27, 2014, 11:44 am

      It actually has 4 out of 5 stars. If I can learn one thing from it, it’ll be worth the shipping cost.

  28. Maria January 27, 2014, 4:02 am

    Agree absolutely

  29. jennifer January 27, 2014, 3:46 am

    Those are very comical instructions.
    “Your back will probably end up parallel with the ground, or your head may even go below your shoulders.” In which case the chair would be on top of the person unless you are a tortoise or you have exceptionally long bendy arms like that tall green fellow. I think its time this site hired a digital animation student – I know of a few who can make you just such a little project!

  30. Elef January 27, 2014, 3:43 am

    Hi Vivian, I agree with John, a video or a sketch could help me to understain the steps of this exercise.

    • Customer Support January 27, 2014, 4:26 am

      Hi Elef,

      Thanks so much for your suggestion! We listened and added a sketch to the instructions. Hope that clears things up.

      Enjoy!

  31. John January 27, 2014, 3:23 am

    I cannot envision the above 5 back stretch steps. A video along with the instructions would be most helpful.

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