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keeping your back straight

I’ve been working hard to learn to move with my back straight.  I knew that forward bending was something to avoid –  small fractures in the front of the spine lead to more fractures– a cumulative process that is hard to stop once started.  I had thought it was ok to bend backwards, and have been doing this everyday as part of a modified balance exercise on the Wii.

I just found this diagram on the National Osteoporosis Foundation website: back straight

Looking through the ‘Yoga for Osteoporosis’ book by Loren Fishman and Ellen Saltonstall I see they don’t include poses with back bending.  They do have something called ‘Upward Bow’ (Urdhva dhansurasana) (p122) but is for prevention only.  The other poses come with three variations for those preventing osteoporosis, for those with osteopenia (at risk bones) and those who already have fragile bones.

If anyone has ever watched an infant get frustrated at being trapped in a car seat – I can empathise.

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Uncategorized

Posture, posture, posture

yoga with Wii

The osteoporosis guides are full of exhortations to manage your posture to reduce your risk of fracture.  The aim is to prevent your back from curling forward (imagine cuddling a kitten/slouching on a sofa) as this increases the risk of spine fractures.  The spine is a series of stacked bones, and they get little fractures without people noticing, they crumble a little, form a wedge shape…and the wedge encourages curling forward, which increases the pressure and increases the fractures, and before you know it you are walking along unable to look at anything but the ground.

I’ve been teaching myself to put on my shoes with a straight back (don’t forget the neck!), but haven’t been able to figure out any way to cut my toenails without curving.  Maybe I’ll have to put up with lacquered toenails the rest of my life.  I got my nails cut by a nail salon person when I first broke my wrist as I could not do them myself, and the technician was so distressed at the idea of my just having my nails cut and no polish that I let her put polish on. Even though it was a nothing colour it was still weird, and I couldn’t open the very ancient pack of nail polish remover I had in the studio so it just wore off gradually over the next month.

A useful guide is to get a broomstick, place it along your spine, and learn to bend while keeping your vertebrae aligned with the pole.  At least it is a useful imaginary guide…it is actually really hard to tell what your back is doing in detail, and holding the pole top and bottom is difficult, especially with a fractured wrist.  Need a mirrored gym and a video camera and a physical therapist of my own.

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Ouch!  still haven’t figured out how to catch a sneeze ahead of it happening.  I’m supposed to support the small of my back or brace a hand against a thigh to reduce risk of fracture when sneezing…but my sneezes are unhelpful and they explode without enough warning.  Plus, of course, one should be grovelling for a tissue at the same time and not dropping whatever else is being carried and clenching (sorry) the pelvic floor muscles..

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I looked into devices to help one to develop and maintain a good posture.  Most of them are things you strap on and wear a measuring and notifying device in the small of your back.  The straps look awkward to manage and rather obvious, and most of the devices make an audible sound, so not good for discretion.  One US version allowed a sound or a vibration.

While I was looking at these I came across a device called Lumo Lift.  With the wonders of modern technology and delivery systems I found out about it the 23rd of December, and on the 24th I was presented with it as my (slightly early) christmas present by Bestbeloved.  It is very easy to use, very discrete, can be told what posture you are aiming at.  Two little taps in a new position tells the device that is what you are aiming at.  I sit straight at my desk on my Swopper chair but my back angle is slightly different from walking, and you can tell it to ‘coach’ you, where the thing buzzes whenever you go out of the desired posture, or just to monitor.  In the monitoring mode the thing gives five short buzzes if you have been out of the target posture for a length of time you can set for yourself.

An extra benefit is that it also tells you how many steps you have done.  I got an email this morning congratulating me on having walked the equivalent distance to swimming the English Channel over the past nine days.  It synchronises with your smart phone, which records the data.

The whole thing is tiny, discrete, and just clips onto your shirt or bra strap with a little magnet.  So far I am impressed with it as a way to remind me all the time to think about the shape of my back.  It measures what it calls ‘slouchy’ posture, and it is based on the angle of the device, so if my back was very straight but at an angle to the floor – as in the straight back bend I’m supposed to be learning, it would give a warning buzz.  What would be very useful would be to have two, one on the lower back and one on the upper, and for it to give a warning if the distance between these two reduced, because that would mean that the spine was curling.  I’ll write to the company and see if there is any way to do this.

I’ve already written to the company to see if the sensitivity can be altered.  While I am sitting, actively, on my lovely red Swopper stool, I register steps when I bounce…ok, I don’t bounce that vigorously a lot, but it is fun to do now and then.  The stool has made a considerable difference to my neck pain as well as keeping me moving the whole time I am at my desk, so I am very pleased with it. Fortunately I can still use the foot control of my sewing machine while on the stool, so for those of you that are envisaging a very wobbly unstable thing, it isn’t like that.  Stable with movement, like those animals on springs in children’s playgrounds.

We also retrieved the ancient Nintendo Wii from the attic and set it up in the living room.  Reducing the risk of falls is a big thing with osteoporosis, as even a hardly noticeable fall (even turning over in bed!) can lead to fractured bones.  I’ve been having fun on the balance games.  It is difficult to be sure what activities are safe to do- I’d like to do the hula hooping as it gets me out of breath and makes me laugh, but, while my back in straight the hip rotation must alter the angles of the vertebrae…until I can get a definitive answer I’ve banned that from my activities.   I’m surprised, with the numbers of people with osteoporosis and the use of the Wii with the elderly to reduce falls that I couldn’t get a list of which activities to avoid and modifications on others.  I’ll keep hunting.  Plenty of research papers available on the impact on balance and whether these balance activities equate to the tests used in other research, but no basic guide.  I wrote to the National Osteoporosis Society about one of the exercises they recommend that everyone else says not to do, but just got a (Facebook) message back saying I should phone.  I like the use of Facebook for generalisable advice as lots of people can learn from queries.

Enough sitting…January is the time for group challenges on my fused glass Facebook groups, so I’m off to do a Sgraffito drawing a day and a painting a day.  Started these to get myself out of the frit frolics I’ve been doing the last few months when I couldn’t handle sheet glass.  Still tricky, but getting my dexterity and strength back…frayed thumb tendon not fully recovered so opening jars still difficult, but making progress.

 

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