Yoga May Help to Reduce Fractures in Osteoporosis
Yoga is an ideal form of therapy if you suffer from mental health problems such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. However, taking part in yoga also benefits your physical health and is a suitable form of exercise for conditions affecting your bones, joints and muscles. One area in which yoga shows promise is for use as a complementary therapy to manage osteoporosis. This bone-thinning condition is responsible for around two million fractures each year in the US, though most people with osteoporosis are oblivious to it till they break a bone. However, if you sustain a fracture of your hip or spine, this can have a significant impact on your mobility and quality of life. While taking steps to prevent osteoporosis is preferable, treatments are available to reduce your risk of suffering a broken bone when you have osteoporosis.
Exercise and osteoporosis
A range of medications are available to slow the rate at which you lose bone mass. However, these work best when taken in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle that includes foods rich in bone-building nutrients and exercise. Three types of exercise may help you to lower your risk of a fracture when you have osteoporosis; these are weight-bearing exercise, resistance training and those activities that help to improve your balance and flexibility. Weight-bearing activities are those where your legs support your weight, which helps to support the density of your bones; good examples include walking, low-impact aerobics and dancing. Meanwhile, resistance exercise, where your body moves against a force, such as using resistance bands or gentle weight-lifting, helps to strengthen your muscles and as a result this helps to strengthen your bones. Finally, exercise such as yoga and pilates help to increase your balance and flexibility, both of which the risk of you sustaining a fall and therefore a fracture. While extra care should be taken when you have osteoporosis, as certain movements may pose a risk to your bones, seeking advice from your doctor about suitable activities and explaining to your instructor that you have osteoporosis reduces the risks and allows you to get most benefit from exercise.
Yoga and osteoporosis
Although various forms of exercise have the potential to improve balance, yoga appears to offer greater benefits than even exercise classes tailored for people who suffer from osteoporosis. A study detailed in the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine certainly showed this was the case. Participants with low bone mass either received twice weekly yoga sessions or twice weekly exercise sessions incorporating activities to improve strength, balance and flexibility. However, at the end of the 12 week study, only those people who took part in yoga achieved a significant improvement in their balance. Participants in the yoga group additionally improved their score for quality of life, which is often reduced among people suffering from osteoporosis.
While the value of yoga for its ability to improve balance and flexibility is often the key focus when it comes to preventing osteporotic fractures, it shouldn’t be forgotten that certain yoga poses also contribute to weight-bearing activity. As already mentioned, weight-bearing exercise slows bone loss and a study reported in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand showed that 12 weeks of yoga therapy reduced markers for bone loss. Although the participants in this research didn’t have osteoporosis, they were all post-menopausal women, so all at increased risk of osteoporosis and its associated fractures. The study also showed that the women receiving yoga improved their physical function, reported reduced pain and better general health, as well as having more energy, all of which are factors that help people to continue to exercise programs.
Although poses that involve spinal flexion may increase the likelihood of spinal compression fractures related to osteoporosis, mild extension and flexion of the spine may offer benefit according to an article published in the International Journal of yoga therapy. When this is taken into account, the gentle weight-bearing aspects of yoga and its ability to improve the strength of the muscles surrounding the spine and your balance, this suggests that for most people with osteoporosis yoga is beneficial. If you are concerned about the potential for fractures when you have osteoporosis, your instructor will be familiar with which poses are suitable for you and will tailor your program accordingly. However, you can also be reassured, as a study reported by Stanford University found that out of 65,000 hours of yoga practice between 575 people, there were no fractures related to yoga.
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Tuzun S et al. “Yoga might be and alternative training for the quality of life and balance in postmenopausal osteoporosis.” European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine. 46(2010):69. Accessed May 2 2014
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