If you have a spinal fracture, the amount of exercise you'll be able to do depends on the type and severity of your fracture and whether your spinal cord is involved. The basic kinds of fractures are a compression fracture of the vertebral body, a compression fracture with disk or bony material that has ejected into the spinal cord or a fracture of the vertebral processes. Exercises must be done carefully to prevent further injury.
Conservative treatment involves wearing a brace to immobilize the fracture until it heals, which can take eight to 12 weeks, although you may have to wear the brace for as much as three or four months, depending on the severity of the fracture.
Treatment also includes rest, reducing your activities and pain medication. You may receive physical therapy to strengthen your back and abdominal muscles, although you will have to avoid unsafe movements. While wearing the brace, your doctor may recommend isometric exercises.
Exercise and Unsafe Movements
While your spine heals, avoid exercises or routine activities that involve bending forward or backward or twisting your spine, such as situps, abdominal crunches, toe touches, yoga, Pilate, tennis and golf. Before attempting any kind of exercise program, ask you doctor how you can stay fit while avoiding exercises that will put pressure on your spine. You may have to eliminate exercising for a while until your back has healed.
Isometric exercises help to maintain muscle strength without moving joints. Since it's important not to move your spine while it is healing, your doctor may recommend isometric exercises while you are wearing your brace. Isometric exercises are performed by tensing individual muscles and hold the tension for a count of 10 or 20, repeating five times. Another exercise that may be available to you, depending again on the type and severity of the fracture, is walking. Ask your doctor about how much and how often you can walk while wearing your brace.
If you fractured your spine due to osteoporosis, weight-bearing exercises such as walking will help strengthen your bones, but you must avoid high-impact exercises, twisting and bending as well as reaching overhead, advises the National Osteoporosis Foundation. With osteoporosis and a spinal fracture, your doctor is more likely to recommend bed rest for a week or two.
- National Osteoporosis Foundation: Moving Safely
- University of Maryland Spine Program: A Patient's Guide to Compression Fracture; 2003
- University of California San Diego: Spine Treatment Options
- University of Florida Department of Neurosurgery: Spinal Fractures
- Hospital for Special Surgery: Spondylolysis; David Green; 2007
- MayoClinic.com: What Are Isometric Exercises and AreThey a Good Way to Strengthen Muscles