Ask the expert is a regular Top Santé advice column answering your questions about all aspects of health, fitness, beauty, and wellbeing. Here, strength coach Nolan Sunnassee (evo-fit.co.uk) looks at fitness and osteoporosis.
Q: I’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis and told my cervical spine (neck area) has degenerated. What exercises should I do or avoid?
A: I would suggest you first speak with your healthcare professional about your specific case. However, without knowing all the details, there are a number of reasons we experience wear, one of which may be bad posture as a result of working on a computer or texting. It can be also due to rounding your shoulders – this applies more stress to the muscles around the neck, which, over time, results in more wear and tear in the area. Bad posture can prematurely age the discs in your spine.
Strengthen and lengthen your neck
Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bone density, which could have been due to posture, so I suggest focusing on neck strengthening and lengthening. You don’t want any moves to cause any pain or discomfort, so lie on your back on a bed or the floor, press your head into the pillow or floor so your chin goes down towards your chest – lengthening the neck and flattening out the normal curve. Press for 10-20 seconds. Relax, then repeat three more times.
Avoid pressing or pulling weight above your head
If your shoulders tend to hunch forward, then you should avoid any moves where you are pressing or pulling a weight above your head, such as shoulder presses and lat pull-downs. You should also avoid any moves that encourage internal rotation on your arms, such as chest presses and push-ups – these shorten the pec minor muscles, which can encourage a forward head posture. this can then put more stress on the neck area.
Try retraction movements
Instead, you could try retraction movements with your shoulders down, such as rowing, as you will be pulling your shoulder blades back and together. Also, try a partial prone cobra where you lay on your front on the floor, then lift your upper body slightly, pulling your shoulder blades back and down and keeping your head in line with your spine.
Use a Swiss ball
You can also use a swiss ball. Lay with your head and shoulders on the ball, and your feet on the floor
with knees bent. Press your head back into the ball, without lifting your hips. To make it harder, walk your feet forward a bit, so that less of your upper body is on the ball – however, this is something you will need to work up to gradually.