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Yoga poses to avoid if you have osteoporosis

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Regular physical activity and exercise strengthens your muscles and keeps your bones strong.

Many people enjoy doing yoga to increase their strength and flexibility, but new research suggests that people with osteoporosis or osteopenia need to take extra care when performing certain positions.

Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become thinner and more porous from loss of mineral content. Bone loss that has not reached the stage of an osteoporosis diagnosis is called osteopenia.

In a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers reviewed the health records of 89 people referred to Mayo Clinic from 2006 to 2018 for pain they attributed to their yoga practice. Some were new to yoga, while others had practised it for years. They had pain in the back, neck, shoulder, hip, knee or a combination.

When asked which yoga positions caused or aggravated their symptoms, patients identified 12 poses and the most common ones were extreme flexing or extending of the spine.

The researchers used patients’ health records, medical exams and imaging to confirm and categorise the injuries as soft tissue, joint or bone injuries. They identified 29 bony injuries, including degeneration of discs, slippage of vertebrae and compression fractures. The latter appeared to be related to postures that put extra pressure on the vertebra and discs.

“Yoga potentially has many benefits, but care must be taken when performing positions with extreme spinal flexion and extension,” the researchers wrote. “Patients with osteopenia or osteoporosis may have higher risk of compression fractures or deformities and would benefit from avoiding extreme spinal flexion. Physicians should consider this risk when discussing yoga as exercise.”

In a separate commentary, Dr Edward Laskowski, co-chair of Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine, called on providers, patients and yoga teachers to work together to produce a bespoke exercise prescription that considers an individual’s medical history to protect against injury and provide optimal benefit.