Your spine is made up of 24 stacked bones called vertebrae; There are 12 vertebrae in your thoracic region, which attach to each of your 12 ribs. A T12 compression fracture affects the lowest vertebra in this region. Core strengthening can be helpful in managing this condition.
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Compression fractures most commonly occur as a result of osteoporosis — a condition that causes your bones to weaken. This disease most commonly affects post-menopausal women due to hormonal changes. However, a compression fracture injury can occur with a fall or other trauma, including car accidents or forceful jumps, according to Cedars-Sinai.
Read more: Safe Exercise for a Fractured Back
Core Strengthening for T12 Fractures
Core-strengthening exercises target the muscles that support your vertebrae. With a T12 compression fracture, the front, or "body," of the vertebra collapses. According to a June 2013 study published in the Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, strengthening the erector spinae muscles along your spine is key for maintaining proper posture and counteracting the spine's tendency to fall forward — putting additional pressure on your weakened vertebrae.
Check with your doctor before performing core-strengthening exercises with a compression fracture. If your vertebra is significantly collapsed, your spine can become unstable. Your vertebral column surrounds your spinal cord, and nerves that power your arms and legs exit between your vertebrae as well. Certain activities could potentially worsen your injury and cause damage to these structures.
Perform each exercise 10 times, working up to three sets in a row. However, if you can't maintain proper form for 10 reps, start with fewer repetitions.
1. Master the Pelvic Tilt
Before you can effectively perform core-strengthening exercises, you must learn to correctly contract these muscles with the basic pelvic tilt.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
- Place your hands on your hips, resting your fingertips just inside your hip bones.
- Tighten your abs as if you are pulling your belly button back toward your spine. You should feel the muscles under your fingertips tighten.
- Hold this contraction for three to five seconds as you continue to breathe, then relax.
The pelvic tilt should be performed and maintained with all core-strengthening exercises.
2. Step It Up
Challenge your core strength further by adding arm and leg movements to your basic pelvic tilt. Options include:
- Slowly marching your feet
- Sliding your heel along the ground to straighten and bend one leg at a time
- Raising one or both arms overhead
- Bringing one knee to your chest at a time
- Bringing both knees to your chest simultaneously
Your lower back should be pressed against the ground throughout these exercises. Limit your repetitions to the number you can perform while maintaining a pelvic tilt. If you feel your low back begin to arch, stop exercising.
3. Make a Bridge
The bridge is another core-strengthening exercise that can easily be added to as your strength improves.
- Perform a pelvic tilt with your arms lying by your sides.
- Squeeze your buttocks together and lift your hips up toward the ceiling as far as comfortably possible.
- Hold for two to three seconds, then slowly lower back down.
Advance your bridges once they are no longer challenging. Try the following variations:
- Cross your arms over your chest as you bridge
- March in place from a bridged position
- Perform a one-legged bridge while holding the opposite leg off the ground
4. Make a Table
Core-strengthening exercises can also be performed in quadruped — on your hands and knees.
- Position your wrists directly under your shoulders and line your knees up under your hips.
- Lift one arm straight out in front of you while maintaining a flat back, or "tabletop" position.
- After a few seconds, slowly lower your arm back down. Repeat with the opposite arm.
- Lift one leg at a time, straight out from the back.
- As your strength improves, lift the opposite arm and leg at the same time.
5. Fly Like Superman
Supermans are another core-strengthening exercise that can basically be performed anywhere.
- Lie on your stomach on the ground or other firm surface with your arms stretched out overhead.
- Lift your opposite arm and leg simultaneously while keeping your hips in contact with the ground.
- Hold for three to five seconds, then lower and repeat on the opposite side.
Make this exercise more challenging by adding wrist and ankle weights, or by holding small dumbbells in your hands.
6. Sit on a Ball
What if it hurts to lie down and exercise? No worries! Core-strengthening exercises can also be performed in a seated position.
- Sit on an exercise ball with your feet flat on the floor.
- Tighten your core muscles.
- Slowly straighten one leg at the knee, then place your foot back on the floor. Repeat on the opposite side.
- March in place while maintaining a tight core.
7. Crunch on the Ball
Perform crunches on the ball to strengthen your abs without added pressure on your back.
- Sit on the ball. Walk your feet forward and slowly lie back on the ball. Stop when the ball is under the middle of your back.
- Cross your arms over your chest. Tighten your abs and lift your shoulder blades off the ball.
- Hold for two to three seconds at the top, then slowly lower back down.
Take a Walk
Believe it or not, walking can strengthen your core muscles — particularly if you focus on walking with proper upright posture. This activity strengthens the muscles that support your spine in an upright position. As an added bonus, weight bearing improves bone strength.
However, choose your walking paths wisely. Uneven ground can increase the risk of falls, which can lead to more fractures if your bones are weak. Listen to your body and stop any activity in case of pain.
Proceed with caution when exercising. Although strengthening your core muscles can help support your spine, there is always a risk of further injury. This risk is even greater for those with compression fractures and other injuries.
Stop exercising if you notice any signs of pain, numbness or tingling. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience paralysis, have difficulty walking or suddenly lose control of your bowels or bladder. These can be signs of significant nerve damage, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Cedars-Sinai: "Compression Fracture"
- Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare: "Vertebral Compression Fractures: A Review of Current Management and Multimodal Therapy"
- Princeton University Athletic Medicine: "Lumbar/Core Strength and Stability Exercises"
- Mayo Clinic: "Osteoporosis"
- Mayo Clinic: "Peripheral Neuropathy"