One of the biggest concerns people begin to have as they age is osteoporosis. Just the thought of the bones breaking owing to even a nudge is painful, imagine going through it! Is yoga good for osteoporosis? Research states that yoga can help reduce the symptoms of osteoporosis or even reduce the condition. Let us dig a little deeper and figure out the connection between yoga and osteoporosis.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease. In this condition, the bones are weakened, and you are at a constant risk of having fractured bones. People have the highest bone density in their early 20s. As you age, the bone mass reduces due to various reasons. When there is too much breakdown of the bones and too little is built back, the bones tend to get brittle, resulting in fractures. Low levels of estrogen in women, low testosterone levels in men, lack of calcium, and vitamin D, sedentary lifestyles – all of these can be causes of osteoporosis.
How Does Yoga Help With Osteoporosis?
Yoga is a sort of strength training that helps you balance and align your body the right way. When your body is properly aligned, and you can balance, you automatically reduce probable injury. The standing poses strengthen your hips, which are sometimes the most affected by osteoporosis. Mild back bends build strength in the spine and decompress the vertebrae. Yoga also improves the circulation of blood in the body, which means better absorption of nutrients. But to benefit from yoga for osteoporosis, you have to practice it for 30 days at least five days a week. Having said this, you should not overdo the practice either. Start slowly with simple asanas, and then increase the time and the level of difficulty as you progress. You will notice significant changes eventually. But beware of some yoga poses to avoid with osteoporosis! You must consult your doctor before you begin yoga. You should also speak to your yoga instructor about your condition before you start practicing.
7 Powerful Asanas In Yoga For Osteoporosis
Ardha Pincha Mayurasana
Also Known As – Padahastasana, Hasta Padasana, Standing Forward Bend
Benefits – This asana stretches, tones, and strengthens the bones in the lower spine, legs, and hips. It also ensures that every part of the body is oxygenated and balanced. It works on the reproductive system and improves hormonal imbalances. Just ease into the asana. Do not push yourself too much when you begin, or else you will be left with an injury. With practice, you can progress.
How To Do It – Stand straight while placing your palms on your hips. Breathe in, and bend your hips as you breathe out. Place the palms next to your feet on the floor. Place the feet parallel to each other. Push the torso forward and extend your spine while lifting the tailbone. Hold the pose for a few seconds, and release.
2. Virabhadrasana II
Also Known As –Warrior Pose II
Benefits –This asana is amazing because it works on your arms, spine, and legs. It strengthens the muscles as well as the bones. This asana also helps improve the balance in the body. It helps with better circulation and hormonal imbalances too.
How To Do It –Widen your legs, placing them hip-width apart. Twist the right heel, pointing the toes outwards. Pivot with the left foot. Ensure that the arch of your left foot is in line with the right foot. Lower your hips and radiate all your energy out as you stretch out your arms. The arms must be in line with the shoulders. Turn your gaze to the front, and take long, deep breaths. Hold the pose. Release, and repeat on the other side.
3. Ardha Chandrasana
Also Known As –Warrior Pose II
Benefits –This asana is a balancing pose. It not only improves your ability to balance with the weak bones, but it also strengthens the bones in the legs, spine, and arms. This asana improves the nutrient absorption through blood circulation.
How To Do It –Place your feet hip-width apart. Now, lift your right foot off the ground, and bend your body to the left, bringing your left arm to the ground for support. Once you are comfortable, place your right leg parallel to the ground, or lift it as much as you comfortably can. Raise your right arm up, and turn your gaze towards it. Hold the pose for a few seconds. Release, and repeat on the other side.
4. Utthita Parsvakonasana
Also Known As –Extended Side Angle Pose
Benefits –This asana stretches and strengthens the legs. It also works on the arms and the back. This asana massages the abdominal organs and the reproductive system, and therefore, hormonal imbalances are also rectified. There is also an increase in the absorption of vitamin D and calcium in the bones due to the enhanced circulation of blood.
How To Do It –Place your legs hip-width apart, and twist the right foot such that the toes point outwards. Ground yourself using your left heel. Make sure that the arch of the left heel is in line with the right foot. Lower the hips and stretch out your arms. Now, slowly bend your body such that the right arm touches the right foot. Extend your left arm upwards. Look at your left arm and breathe. Release after a few seconds, and repeat on the other side.
5. Ardha Pincha Mayurasana
Also Known As –Dolphin Pose
Benefits –This asana works wonders in strengthening your spine. It lengthens the spine, removing all the stress trapped in it. It gives the bones and hamstrings a good stretch, which strengthens the legs. The circulation of blood is improved, and hormonal imbalances are rectified.
How To Do It –Come onto your fours, and gently lift your knees off the floor, thereby straightening them. You should ideally place your feet flat on the ground, but in case you cannot, it is ok to lift up on your heels. Take two steps backward, and once you are comfortable, work on the arms. Fold your arms at the elbows, and place your forearms flat on the ground clasping your palms. Lower your head to the ground, fitting your crown in your clasped palms. Your shoulders should come close to your ears. At this point, your body should resemble an inverted ‘V.’ Hold the pose, and breathe long and deep for a few seconds before you release.
6. Setu Bandhasana
Also Known As –Bridge Pose
Benefits –This asana works primarily on enhancing blood circulation and strengthening the back. It is a great asana for women as it works on their reproductive system and helps rectify the level of estrogen in the body.
How To Do It – Lie on your back, and fold your legs at the knees. Lift your back and hips off the floor. Also, ensure that you straighten the shoulders. Place your arms on the floor and stretch them out such that they reach your feet. Take three long breaths, and then release.
7. Urdhva Dhanurasana
Also Known As – Chakrasana, Wheel Pose, Upward Facing Bow Pose
Benefits –You must make sure you practice this asana only once you have been practicing yoga for osteoporosis for a while, and you have seen progress. It is an advanced asana for osteoporosis, and can work as a check to see how much you have progressed. This asana enhances oxygenation and nutrient absorption all over the body, owing to better blood circulation. It also helps to strengthen the arms and the legs. Since the reproductive organs get a good massage, this asana also helps to regulate the hormones in the body.
How To Do It –Lie on your back. Now, place your palms on either side of your head, with your fingers pointing towards your shoulders. Bend your knees and place your feet on the ground. Whenever you feel ready, push your palms and feet to raise the rest of your body off the ground. You need to be very careful while doing this. Hang your head, look backward and hold. Gently lower your body, placing your head on the ground first, and then your b
Have you ever tried any of these yoga poses for osteoporosis treatment? We definitely take our bones for granted. Don’t wait until it is too late! Regular yoga practice will prevent the problem from emerging altogether. But God forbid, if you do contract osteoporosis, you now know what to do.
Kyphosis, a painful condition commonly known as “hunchback” is a physical deformation of the middle and upper spine, in which its natural curve increases, resulting in a “hunched over” posture.
While the postural issue used to be a problem largely reserved for older women, in recent decades, kyphosis has become a significant health problem for older men and women alike, says Dr. Alpesh Patel, director of orthopedic spine surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
“Twenty years ago, when I was in medical school, no one ever thought about it,” he says. Kyphosis now affects between 20 and 40 percent of adults, with both prevalence and severity increasing through the decades, according to a 2015 study published in the scientific journal Neurosurgery. The effects of kyphosis range from decreased mobility to pain and disability to impaired lung function and even increased mortality, according to the study’s findings.
So why is kyphosis becoming increasingly common? In a word: weakness.
“Osteoporosis is the leading cause of age-related kyphosis, with sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss, being a secondary cause,” Patel explains. Much of the osteoporosis prevalence in women is related to menopausal hormone changes.
However, as the average American’s life has become more sedentary and desk jobs have replaced physically laborious ones, the rates of osteoporosis have grown in women and men. Patel notes that the body’s peak bone mass occurs in the 30s and early 40s, and then naturally declines thereafter.
As the spine – and the muscles that support it – become weaker, the vertebrae become susceptible to compression fractures, in which the bone breaks under the load of everyday activities like walking or even coughing, he says. An estimated 1.5 million vertebral compression fractures, or VCFs, occur every year in the United States, affecting about 25 percent of postmenopausal women, according to 2012 research published in The Permanente Journal. These compression fractures are about half as common in men as they are in women; when they occur, the bone typically slides down the spine and, over time, can form the thoracic spine into a C-shape.
“The best way to avoid compression fractures and kyphosis is to prevent or slow the development of osteoporosis,” says Dr. Andrew Sama, a spine surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
Below, spinal experts share their strategies to help keep the body’s bones – especially those along the spine – strong.
Measure your bone density. To best address your vertebral bone health, you need to know its status. Two common tests to measure bone density are dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, also called DEXA, and quantitative CT, or QCT, Sama says.
Both tests are noninvasive and scan the spine (and often the hips) to determine bone mineral density. DEXA is often contraindicated in anyone with arthritis, scoliosis, disc space narrowing, spinal degenerative diseases, obesity and other conditions, according to the department of radiology and biomedical imaging at the University of California–San Francisco.
Talk to your primary care doctor to determine which test is right for you.
Perform weight-bearing exercises. “Bones are alive and constantly turning over and remodeling themselves,” Patel says. One trigger for your bones to grow stronger is to regularly stress them.
The best forms of exercising to increase bone strength include weight-bearing exercises, specifically exercises that load the body axially, or with force being exerted through the spine, says Ryan Campbell, a training specialist at Anytime Fitness of Southern Wisconsin. Examples of axial loading exercises include dead lifts, barbell back and front squats and overhead dumbbell presses.
Prioritize using resistance levels that allow you to perform three sets of 10 reps of each exercise with proper form, he says, noting that lighter loads will have less effect on bone growth.
However, for those whose bone mineral density scans point to osteoporosis or osteopenia, it may be advised to trade exercises that put downward pressure on the spine for gentler ones. While stressing the spine stimulates vertebral bone growth, the amount of that stress must match the current strength of the spine, Patel says.
If your doctor has not given you specific recommendations on what exercises are contraindicated, according to your bone health, talk to a physical therapist or certified trainer before beginning an exercise routine, Campbell advises.
Review your current prescriptions. “Medications, including steroids, proton pump inhibitors to treat gastroesophageal reflux, and some antidepressive medications can increase risk of osteoporosis,” Sama says. Talk to your doctor about the impact any prescribed medications could have on your spinal health. In some cases, alternative medications may be available.
It’s worth noting that medications can also be used to help slow the progression of osteoporosis. Common options include bisphosphonates, teriparatide, abaloparatide and denosumab, Sama says.
Assess your calcium and vitamin D levels. Both nutrients are vital to bone health, but many people don’t get enough of calcium or vitamin D. While a basic metabolic panel, which is a standard part of annual physicals, includes calcium testing, it does not include vitamin D screening, according to the American Association for Clinical Chemistry. You must request a vitamin D test – performed through a simple blood draw – to have your levels evaluated.
Once you know your calcium and vitamin D levels, you and your doctor can discuss any nutrition or lifestyle changes, as well as supplementation and dosage if necessary, Sama says.
Pay attention to protein. While most people think about protein in terms of strengthening the muscles, increased muscle health can indirectly improve bone strength. According to a 2014 study published in Current Opinions of Clinical Metabolic Care, protein may also promote strong bones by increasing calcium absorption and affecting hormone levels.
However, recent research shows that older Americans aren’t getting enough of this important nutrient to effectively maintain muscle health. One study, presented at the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition 2018 Nutrition Science & Practice Conference, shows that roughly 40 percent of older adults don’t meet current the daily protein recommendation of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of a person’s body mass per day. That equals about 0.36 grams of daily protein per pound of body weight. However, mounting research advises older adults to eat about double the current recommended amount.
Strengthen the core and the back. It’s important to strengthen the core muscles’ ability to stabilize and protect the spine and the back muscles’ capability to pull the shoulders and spine into upright posture, Patel says. Rowing exercises, including resistance-band rows and lat pull-downs, can help strengthen the muscles of the middle and upper back. Supine Y raises (in which you lie on the floor and raise your outstretched arms from the floor to form a Y with your body) and resistance-band pull-apart, where you hold two ends of a resistance band with your arms in front of your shoulders and pinch your shoulder blades together, focus on the muscles of the upper back.
Meanwhile, dead-bugs and bird-dogs train the deep-lying muscles of the core to stabilize the spine. Pallof presses, in which you stand perpendicular to a resistance band or cable’s fixed point and hold the handle in front of your abdomen and press forward, further improve the ability of the core muscles to act as a sort of protective spine scaffolding, Sama says.
Avoid spinal flexion. If you’re diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, it’s smart to lessen or avoid activities that include spinal flexion or bending and can increase pressure on the vertebra and spinal discs, Sama says. These activities include both exercises such as crunches, toe touches and trunk twists, as well as acts of daily living such as slouching in front of a computer, he says.
Focus on maintaining a long, neutral spine, with only a slight curve in both your lower and upper back, throughout the day, Patel recommends.
Avoid smoking. Smoking is a known risk factor for osteoporosis, interfering with how the body uses vitamin D and calcium to strengthen bones, according to the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. A 2001 meta-analysis published in Calcified Tissue International found that smoking increased the risk of lumbar, or lower, spine fractures by 13 percent in women and 32 percent in men.
Cutting back on or eliminating tobacco usage at any age can have positive effects on your future spinal health, Patel says.
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