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 Osteoporosis Reversal 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!
- Stand facing the back of a chair with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Take hold of the chair back with your hands. You should be leaning forward a bit.
- Keeping your back straight, move your body forward at the hips. It’s okay if you need to bend your knees a little.
- 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.
- Hold that position for one minute and repeat as many times as you wish.
Till next time,
1 Melton LJ 3d, Atkinson EJ, Cooper C, O'Fallon WM, Riggs BL. “Vertebral fractures predict subsequent fractures.” Osteoporosis Int. 1999;10:214–21.