Protecting your back

Be Kind to your Back


It is very important to protect your back (spine) by moving properly during daily activities and especially exercise. Activities that place stress on your back can increase your chances of breaking a bone/s.

For example, people with bone loss in the spine should not:

  • Bend forward from the waist, especially with your legs straight
  • Twist your back to either side when your feet are planted on the floor

·         No lifting anything over 3 pounds if you have severe Osteoporosis

·         If you have Osteopenia and/or Osteoporosis you should be very careful regarding lifting heavy items. A trolley could be used or a family member etc could help, who does not have bone loss

  • Use a trolley when food shopping and only half fill your shopping bags. Ask a member of staff to help lift the items into your car
  • No bending forward when coughing and sneezing, you could place a pillow on your chest and hug it if having a coughing fit
  • All items that you use on a regular basis in your home, especially the kitchen and bedroom should be within your hip and shoulder level. Reaching up above shoulder level or below your hip level can put you at risk of having a fall.

·         No stretches or exercise that put stress on your back. Example: regular sit ups, abdominal crunches or touching your toes


For people with significant bone loss, simply hugging a friend or picking up a bag of shopping can cause a broken bone/s in your spine. People can break bones by sneezing and coughing, getting out of a chair or turning over in bed. To help protect the spine during a sneeze or cough, if you do not have access to a pillow at that time, gently press one or both hands against the chest. This helps prevent bending forward which can place stress on the spine.

If you have osteoporosis and develop back pain, you should be assessed as soon as possible, to see if a fracture (broken bone) has occurred. You should be assessed by someone who deals specifically in Osteoporosis. The reason this is so important is because 50% of Irish women with fractures in their back are undiagnosed. Once a person develops a fracture in their back, if not investigated and treated, they will usually develop another fracture within six to twelve months.

It is very important that you have your height checked every year and preferably in the same clinic. Make sure to take your shoes off and ask them if you have lost height from the previous year. Many people think that it is normal to lose height as you age, this is not true. There has to be a reason why you have lost height and this must be found and addressed, NOT ignored. Loss of height is a red flag that a person may have an undiagnosed broken bone/s in their back


Strengthening the muscles that hold your back straight and upright is important, as well as exercises to keep your spine flexible.  However it is essential that you do not start any form of exercise programme (other than walking) until all causes of your bone loss have been found and addressed and that you are on an Osteoporosis treatment for at least eight weeks. There are 200 causes of bone loss, this is why your bone loss should not be assumed.

Tips for those with bone loss regarding exercise

1)      Request a copy (from the Dr who referred you for your DXA scan or from the clinic itself) of your entire DXA scan report, including the graphs and images and individual T score. They are your personal records. 

2)      Contact a Chartered Physiotherapy clinic and explain that you would like to be assessed for a safe and appropriate exercise programme. However you will be bringing in a copy of your DXA scan report and you would like the Physiotherapist to explain the report in detail to you. The reason this is important is because if a person cannot understand your DXA scan results, how can they put you on a safe and appropriate exercise programme?

3)      If you have Osteopenia and/or Osteoporosis, you should be assessed individually to see what exercises and stretches are safe for you.

4)      No trampolines, no high impact exercise.


Protecting your back