A new yoga study suggests that yoga could lead to spinal fractures, particularly in older woman suffering from Osteopenia.

Are Spinal Fractures a Result of Yoga?

The Yoga Spine Injury study appears in the March 2012 issue of the medical journal Pain practice. 

Pain topics is an online health information resource for pain management professionals quotes a study by Dr. Mehrsheed Sinaki of the Mayo Clinic.

“In his article, Sinaki describes 3 otherwise healthy women — ages 61, 70, and 87 years — with low bone mineral density (osteopenia) and yoga-induced painful spinal fractures. None had prior vertebral fractures and they all had started yoga exercises to improve their musculoskeletal health. New back or neck pain attributed to vertebral compression fractures occurred as a direct result of their participation in yoga postures that involved strenuous spinal flexion.”

“The position shown in the top figure could strain the cervical, upper thoracic, and thoracolumbar spine. During the yoga spinal flexion posture shown in the middle figure, the weight of the lower extremities and pelvis is imposed on the flexed thoracic spine and neck. The position in the bottom figure could result in thoracic vertebral anterior wedging or compressions and increased kyphosis over time. In all three postures, strenuous loading of the osteopenic or osteoporotic spine occurs while the spine is in an undesirable biomechanical flexion position, and a potential for vertebral compression fractures is understandable, Sinaki suggests.

The Yoga Spine Injury study appears in the March 2012 issue of the medical journal Pain practice. 

There are a couple of big caveats here. First, the study only looks at 3 people, therefore, it is anecdotal in nature. The second is considered the source, Pain Topics – a resource for medical professionals where anecdotal evidence has some value when it comes to treatment.

Pain topics say “these cases are an example of when evidence appears to have practical value, or “prima facie validity,” serving more as a caution than a clinically validated contraindication regarding the selection of yoga exercises in women with preexisting bone loss.”

The takeaway for consumers? Seek medical advice before jumping head first into Yoga, especially, older women suffer from Osteopenia. Yoga can certainly be a great form rehabilitation but like all exercises, there are risks especially for people with certain conditions.