Table of Contents
This flexibility exercises for osteoporosis guide discusses flexibility and stretching for people diagnosed with osteoporosis, osteopenia, and low bone density. It covers:
- The importance of flexibility for good posture and body mechanics.
- How different types of stretches target muscles, nerves, and fascia.
- Testing for hypermobility and tips to keep you safe when you stretch.
Benefits of Flexibility for People With Osteoporosis
Regular stretching and flexibility exercises help to maintain joint and muscle range of motion.
It is always best to consult a Physical Therapist, who can help you identify which muscles need stretching. We have you covered if you cannot access a professional near you. You can access numerous resources that I will place in this guide.
How Flexible Are You?
Flexibility is an important component of overall physical fitness. However, an individual’s flexibility is largely genetically determined.
Over my many years as a Physical Therapist and Yoga instructor, I noticed that individuals who need to stretch do not particularly like to stretch, while those who like to stretch don’t need to.
Avoid comparing how flexible you are to other people; instead, try to be as flexible as you need to perform daily activities and complete your osteoporosis exercise program.
Stretches That Reduce Fracture Risk
You can find hundreds of videos, photos, suggestions, and programs on the internet focused on stretching. However, these stretches and flexibility routines may be wrong for you.
The stretches in my book, Exercise for Better Bones, in my videos, and on this website are specifically designed for people with low bone density, osteopenia, or osteoporosis. They are safe and effective. They are intended for you.
I have given much thought to ensuring that each stretch provides you with the flexibility you need without compromising the health of your hip or spine.
Below is a video on hamstring stretching that explains how flexible hamstrings help protect your spine.
Stretching for Function and Injury Prevention
A flexible body allows you to reach farther before spraining or straining a muscle or joint. In this section, I cover the fundamentals of stretching for injury prevention.
Improving your posture involves both stretching and strengthening. My four daily stretches video focuses on the muscles to stretch daily.
We get tight when we spend too much time in one position. Whether you are sitting behind a computer, reading a book, knitting, doing housework, or doing woodwork. Most activities of daily living involve forward movement from a sitting or squatted position.
Repeated or sustained forward movements tighten our chest muscles, the front of the hips and thighs. I have a video specifically for those of you working from home.
An imbalance in the muscles around your pelvis can lead to either a posterior or anterior pelvic tilt. I have videos addressing these conditions and which stretches to focus on.
Regular stretching will help you regain your correct postural alignment.
Myofascial Stretching Guidelines
Follow these myofascial stretching guidelines:
- Choose a time and place that will be undisturbed.
- Use support as needed to be comfortable in the stretch.
Telescope the area you are stretching.
- Adjust your position to limit the intensity to 4 out of 10.
Breathe slowly in a relaxed manner. If you find yourself holding your breath, adjust your position.
- Breathe into an area of tightness and visualize it softening and letting go.
- To achieve an effective release, maintain the stretch uninterrupted for at least 2 minutes.
- After 2 minutes, if your body is comfortable, hold for 2 to 4 more minutes.
After the stretch, drink a glass of water. The fascia needs hydration to remain healthy.
Muscle Stretches: Dynamic and Static Stretching
Muscles respond well to both dynamic and static stretches. Dynamic stretches make an excellent warm-up for the activity. They are held for one to two seconds and repeated ten times.
Static stretches make a great cool-down and are generally held for thirty seconds and repeated two to three times.
Self-Massage for a Better Stretch
Trigger points, or very tender areas in your muscles, are a common experience. They are often sources of referred pain.
Muscles stretch far better after you have treated their trigger points. Let’s cover guidelines for releasing trigger points through massage.
Trigger Point Massage Guidelines
You can follow these guidelines when working on any tight, painful/tender muscle. (2)
- Imagine you are massaging a dog or cat that is in pain.
- Approach the muscle with kindness.
- Aim for a pain level of five on a scale of one to ten. You are looking for a purring effect or a pleasant pain.
- Massage with short (one to two inches) repeated strokes.
- Emphasize one direction and move slowly over the tender area (two to three seconds).
- Limit the massage to six to twelve strokes per trigger point/tender spot.
- A more frequent, gentle daily treatment is far better than one longer, more aggressive session.
- Massage the trigger point(s) three to four times per day.
- Breathe and be patient. You may have had these trigger points for years. They may take a few days/weeks to disappear.
I have videos demonstrating how to massage your upper thigh with a rolling pin or a foam roller and massage your shoulder muscles using a ball.
Suppose you ever experience zinging, pins and needles, or a deep, painful sensation when you stretch. In that case, you may have adhesions around your nerves.
Our nerves carry impulses between our brain, organs, muscles, bones, and other body structures. The nervous system directs highly skilled movements under different levels of tension.
Nerves travel a long way and must be flexible to stretch and retract to accommodate the many movements of the human body.
Adhesions around a nerve, whether from direct trauma, lack of movement, surgery, or trauma to surrounding tissue, impact its flexibility. Unlike muscles and fascia, nerves do not like static stretches. (3)
They look like dental floss and respond best to movements that resemble flossing. For specific nerve stretches, it is best to seek guidance from a Physical Therapist.
Flexibility Exercises for Osteoporosis Resource
This video series is a safe and effective stretching exercise workout for people concerned with their bone health. It includes three separate flexibility sessions.
Hypermobility means that your joints are more flexible than the average person’s.
I have a video demonstrating the Beighton hypermobility test. You can follow along with me to test whether you are hypermobile.
If you are anywhere on the hypermobility scale, I highly recommend that you exercise in front of a mirror. A mirror is critical to giving you the feedback you do not get from your joints.
Many individuals with hypermobile feet and ankles experience frequent ankle strains, sprains, near falls, or actual falls because they do not receive feedback fast enough from their joints to be able to react. Wearing ankle braces and using walking sticks/poles are beneficial ways to reduce fall risk.
I have several videos on hypermobility within this guide.
Recommended Posts on Flexibility
- John Barnes, Myofascial Training Level I course notes.
- The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook – Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief Authors: Clair and Amber Davies, 3rd ed. Available on Amazon or Indigo. This book is a great resource and very user-friendly.
- David S. Butler. Mobilisation of the Nervous System. Churchill Livingstone. 1991