Osteoporotic Fractures and Exercise

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Learn about the most common osteoporotic fractures and how exercise can help prevent them.

Disclaimer: If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Well Guide contain information from peer-reviewed research, medical societies and governmental agencies; however, these articles are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

For people with low bone density, it is important to think about fractures and how to prevent them. Statistics show that there are approximately 1.5 million osteoporotic fractures annually in the United States alone (Clynes, 2020). 

While osteoporosis does cause an increased risk of fractures, there is good news: Certain exercises can help improve bone health and reduce the risk of fractures (BHOF, 2020). In fact, exercise plays a pivotal role in maintaining and improving bone health, particularly for individuals with low bone density such as those with osteoporosis and osteopenia. Weight-bearing exercises, resistance training, and balance exercises are the most important exercises for bone health, as they can help you build and maintain strong bones while also helping to prevent fractures.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to each of the most commonly fractured body regions – the spine, hip and wrist – and we’ll also explain how to strengthen them. Our upcoming series of articles will explore specific exercises you can do to help prevent fractures in each of these crucial areas. Our aim is to provide you with essential guidance on living with osteoporosis and how to preserve and enhance bone strength and stability at these joints for a long and active life.

Osteoporotic fractures of the spine

Spinal compression fractures are the most common type of fracture in people with osteoporosis, affecting over 700,000 Americans annually (McCarthy, 2016) and 25% of postmenopausal women over 50. Many cases of spinal compression fractures may even go undiagnosed, particularly if they are asymptomatic or cause only mild symptoms.

How to prevent spinal compression fractures

Due to the prevalence of spinal compression fractures and the impact they can have on a person’s life, it is important that women know about exercises to prevent spinal fractures. Unlike most fractures that occur after sustaining a fall or some type of sudden impact, spinal compression fractures can occur quietly and over time. They are often the result of sustained forces on weakened portions of the spinal bones (or vertebrae). 

Bad (forward flexed) posture is one of the main contributing factors to developing a spinal compression fracture. For this reason, it is very important to strengthen the muscles in the back, shoulders, hips and core to help improve mobility and strengthen the muscles that help maintain good posture and alignment. 

Osteoporotic fractures of the hip

The hip is another commonly fractured joint in people with osteoporosis. The prevalence of osteoporotic hip fractures varies depending on several factors such as age, sex, and ethnicity. However, it is estimated that approximately 1.6 million hip fractures occur worldwide each year, with the majority of cases occurring in individuals over the age of 65.

In the United States, approximately 300,000 osteoporotic hip fractures occur per year, with women being more commonly affected than men  (CDC, 2016). Approximately 25% of women and 6% of men over the age of 50 will experience a hip fracture in their lifetime due to osteoporosis (BHOF, 2016; Cleveland Clinic, 2020).

How to prevent hip fractures

Hip fractures can have significant consequences for individuals, including decreased mobility, increased risk of complications such as pneumonia and blood clots, and increased mortality. Therefore, prevention and early management of osteoporosis are important to reduce the risk of hip fractures and other osteoporotic fractures.

One way to help prevent hip fractures is to strengthen the muscles surrounding the hip joint. By doing weight-bearing and resistance exercises to strengthen the muscles and bones of the hip, one can help improve bone density while strengthening the muscles that help promote good static and dynamic balance

Osteoporotic fractures of the wrist

The wrist is another commonly fractured joint in people with osteoporosis. Made up of very small bones, the wrist is often fractured during falls when the arm is extended reflexively to protect the head from hitting the ground. The wrist isn’t designed to sustain this type of impact but is especially vulnerable to fractures in someone with weakened bones. 

How to prevent wrist fractures

The best way to prevent wrist fractures is to prevent falls from happening in the first place. However, that can’t always be done. It is also important to keep the muscles and bones of the wrist strong by participating in regular weight-bearing and resistance exercises. When you think of weight-bearing activities, you might be imagining activities that occur while standing, but certain exercises such as planks and quadruped exercises are weight-bearing through the wrist, creating bone-building benefits. Isolated wrist exercises using a band or free weights can also target this particular area and protect it from fractures.

Balance and posture exercises to prevent falls and fractures

As mentioned, in addition to doing exercises that target all of the above-mentioned areas, it is important to incorporate balance and posture exercises to promote good alignment and prevent falls. Strengthening the core is important for both posture and balance exercises. Posture exercises can help strengthen the muscles that keep your upper body upright and reduce the tendency for one’s center of gravity to drift forward over time. Meanwhile, balance exercises can help train the body to be more prepared for balance-challenging positions and unexpected obstacles or changes in direction. 

Exercise is a great way to build strength and bone and reduce one’s risk of osteoporotic fractures. Wellen’s workout program addresses each of these body regions and provides personalized exercises that focus on strength, balance and posture to prevent falls and fractures. 

Join us as we spend the next few weeks diving deeper into each of these body zones and sharing the exercises you need to help prevent these common osteoporotic fractures and age actively.

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  1. Clynes MA, Harvey NC, Curtis EM, Fuggle NR, Dennison EM, Cooper C. The epidemiology of osteoporosis. Br Med Bull. 2020;133(1):105-117. doi:10.1093/bmb/ldaa005
  2. Weight Bearing. Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation. Undated. Accessed April 19, 2023. https://www.bonehealthandosteoporosis.org/preventing-fractures/exercise-to-stay-healthy/weight-bearing/
  3. McCarthy J, Davis A. Diagnosis and Management of Vertebral Compression Fractures. Am Fam Physician. 2016 Jul 1;94(1):44-50. PMID: 27386723.
  4. Hip Fractures Among Older Adults. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. September 20, 2016. Accessed April 19, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/falls/hip-fractures.html
  5. Loss of Independence Ranks as Osteoporosis Patients’ Greatest Concern about Aging, According to Recent Survey by NOF. Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation. September 21, 2016. Accessed April 19, 2023. https://www.bonehealthandosteoporosis.org/news/loss-independence-ranks-osteoporosis-patients-greatest-concern-aging-according-recent-survey-nof/#_ednref2
  6. Men: Don't Let Osteoporosis Weaken Your Bones. Cleveland Clinic. April 9, 2020. Accessed April 19, 2023. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/men-dont-let-osteoporosis-weaken-your-bones/

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