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Exercise Right to Prevent Fractures

Finding out you have low bone density is frightening. Suddenly you worry that even the smallest activity may cause a fracture. Exercise is still very important to maintaining healthy bones, but there are types of movements you should do and those you should avoid. First and foremost, you will need to protect yourself from fractures especially of the spine (vertebra), the hip (neck of the femur), and the wrist.

Protecting Your Spine

Forward bending puts dangerous pressure on spine bones, especially from the waist up. If you must bend to lift an object, hinge at the hips with a straight back and neutral or straight spine. Do exercises that extend or arch the mid back, strengthen the back, improve posture, and protect the spine.

What to avoid:

  • rounding at the mid back or the waist
  • rapid twisting of the spine or side bending
  • lifting heavy objects with a rounded back
  • getting out of bed with a rounded back (Roll to your side first, then push yourself up to sitting with your elbow)
  • sitting on the toilet in a slumped position
  • all abdominal crunches, curl-ups, oblique rotations, rollups, rollovers, and plough.

Protecting Your Hips

Hip fractures usually occur when you fall, so the best way to prevent hip fractures is to improve your balance to prevent falls. Stand on one leg every day. Try balancing when you are waiting in line at the grocery store or brushing your teeth. Make sure you have something sturdy to hold on to if you feel unsteady. Do exercises that strengthen the buttocks and extend the hip while standing or while on all fours (hands and knees) lifting your leg behind you.

What to avoid:

  • planting your feet and twisting in place
  • doing strong hip rotation stretches like the pigeon pose in yoga

Protecting Your Wrist

The wrist can fracture when you fall with outstretched arms. If you practice your single leg standing balance you will minimize your risk of falling. Do exercises on all fours to strengthen your wrists.

For more information on specific exercise programs, consult a licensed physical therapist with expertise in working with patients who are at risk for fractures.

Thanks to physical therapist Sherri Betz for these helpful tips.

Reviewed: 2/19/19

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The American Bone Health Fracture Risk CalculatorTM estimates fracture risk for women and men over age 45.