By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Yoga’s emphasis on strength-building, balance and alignment can help people with osteoporosis avoid injury. Low-impact weight-bearing yoga poses stimulate bone growth to build stronger bones. Standing poses can build strength in your hips, an area commonly affected by osteoporosis. Light back-bending back extension poses decompress the vertebrae and build spinal strength.” – Kristin Shea
Bone is living tissue that, like all living tissues, is constantly being broken down and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn’t keep up with the removal of old bone. This results in a loss of bone mass, causing bones to become weak and brittle. It can become so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses like bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. These fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine. Osteoporosis, particularly in its early stages, is difficult to diagnosis as there are typically no symptoms of bone loss. But once bones have been weakened, signs and symptoms may include: back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra, loss of height over time, a stooped posture, or a bone fracture that occurs much more easily than expected.
Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide; approximately 10% of women aged 60, 20% of women aged 70, 40% of women aged 80 and 70% of women aged 90. In the United States 54 million adults over 50 are affected by osteoporosis and low bone mass; 16% of women and 4% of men. Worldwide, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually, including 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over age 50. Most fractures occur in postmenopausal women and elderly men. Osteoporosis takes a huge personal and economic toll. The disability due to osteoporosis is greater than that caused by cancers and is comparable or greater than that lost to a variety of chronic diseases, such as arthritis, asthma and high blood pressure related heart disease.
The most common treatments for osteoporosis are drugs which slow down the breakdown of bone, combined with exercise. The side effects of the drugs are mild, including upset stomach and heartburn. But, there is a major compliance problem as the drugs must be taken over very long periods of time. In fact, only about a third of patients continue to take their medications for at least a year. Even when drugs are taken, exercise is recommended to improve bone growth.
Yoga is a relatively gentle low-cost exercise that can be adjusted to the capabilities of elderly individuals. “By pitting one group of muscles against another, yoga exposes bones to greater forces and, therefore, might enhance bone mineral density more than other means.” So, it would seem reasonable to suspect that yoga practice might be effective in the treatment of osteoporosis. In today’s Research News article “Twelve-Minute Daily Yoga Regimen Reverses Osteoporotic Bone Loss.” See:
or below or view the full text of the study at:
Lu and colleagues recruited participants over the internet who had recent bone density measures and were willing to practice yoga for 12 minutes per day. Only participants who complied and practiced yoga at least every other day were included in the final sample. In the four years prior to the study the participants lost bone density with an average loss per month of −0.0036 g/cm2 for the spine, −0.00008 g/cm2 for the hips, and −0.009 for the femora and 109 bone fractures were reported. After practicing yoga for two years the participants increased bone density with an average gain per month of 0.048, 0.088, and 0.0003 g/cm2, for spine, hips, and femora and only 19 bone fractures were reported.
These are exciting results and suggest that the practice of yoga has long-term benefits for bone health. These results suggest that osteoporotic bone loss can be reversed with yoga. The people studied were from all over the world, making the results highly generalizable to disparate populations. Also, yoga practice has many additional benefits for psychological and physical health and it is safe, low-cost, and can be adapted for individuals at varying ages and physical conditions.
Hence, practice yoga for bone health.
”yoga poses, have improved bone strength and mineral density significantly. . . .They showed a dramatic rise in the bone mineral density of those that practiced yoga. The people that did not do any yoga had the expected modest fall in their bone mineral density.” – Lauren Fishman
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Lu, Y.-H., Rosner, B., Chang, G., & Fishman, L. M. (2016). Twelve-Minute Daily Yoga Regimen Reverses Osteoporotic Bone Loss. Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation, 32(2), 81–87. http://doi.org/10.1097/TGR.0000000000000085
Assess the effectiveness of selected yoga postures in raising bone mineral density (BMD).
Ten-year study of 741 Internet-recruited volunteers comparing preyoga BMD changes with postyoga BMD changes.
Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometric scans. Optional radiographs of hips and spine and bone quality study (7 Tesla).
Bone mineral density improved in spine, hips, and femur of the 227 moderately and fully compliant patients. Monthly gain in BMD was significant in spine (0.0029 g/cm2, P = .005) and femur (0.00022 g/cm2, P = .053), but in 1 cohort, although mean gain in hip BMD was 50%, large individual differences raised the confidence interval and the gain was not significant for total hip (0.000357 g/cm2). No yoga-related serious injuries were imaged or reported. Bone quality appeared qualitatively improved in yoga practitioners.
Yoga appears to raise BMD in the spine and the femur safely.