Your bones and spine both play an essential role in your body. They work together to provide the framework of your body, aid in movement and protect your major organs, among other tasks. Keeping your bones and spine healthy can help prevent pain and injury, as well as osteoporosis.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that nearly 9 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis, a disease characterized by weakened bones. An even higher number of Americans suffer from back pain, which affects 8 out of 10 people at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
In order to prevent pain and injury and lower the risk of osteoporosis, maintaining proper strength and flexibility in the spine and bones is essential, explains Helen Mitrakis, DPT, MPA, Cert. MDT and supervisor of Community Spine & Physical Therapy in Munster. Dr. Mitrakis recommends strengthening activities to increase bone density while also improving balance and posture.
She explained: “Increased bone density helps prevent and decrease the risk of fractures, and good balance and stability decrease your risk of falls and sustaining fractures.
“Proper posture is important to prevent compression fractures of the spine, which are common with osteoporosis, and helps decrease the stress on the spine by maintaining proper body mechanics during our daily functional activities.”
Examples of weight-bearing activities that strengthen the bones and spine include walking, stair climbing, hiking, dancing, jogging, racquet sports and Tai Chi. Resistance with bands or weights; water resistance with water weights, paddles or gloves; and gravity resistance such as yoga poses and push-ups also help build bone density and keep the spine healthy.
Orthopedic Spine Surgeon Anton Thompkins, MD at Lakeshore Bone and Joint Institute in Chesterton says weight-bearing exercises—such as walking, step aerobics or anything that puts stress on the bones—help increase bone density.
“According to Wolff’s law, bones heal under stress,” Dr. Thompkins explained. Weight-bearing exercises make your bones work against gravity and become stronger. Without gravity and the benefit of weight-bearing exercises, the bones become weaker, as seen in astronauts who have spent long periods of time in space.
“As soon as you take weight off the bone, it will actually start being degraded or osteofied,” Dr. Thompkins added.
Strong core muscles, which include abdominal, back and pelvis muscles, are important to your spine’s health as they help support the spine. While maintaining a strong core is important, Dr. Mitrakis cautions against abdominal crunches or sit-ups for people with osteoporosis due to the increased risk of fracture. She recommends that abdomen strengthening activities should be done in a neutral spine position to help prevent fractures.
Medical Office Building, 801 MacArthur Blvd, Suite 405, Munster, Ind.
219.836.5381; comhs.org; communityspineandbrain.com
Lakeshore Bone & Joint Institute
601 Gateway Blvd, Chesterton, Ind