Ask the doctor: I have osteoporosis. Will physical therapy for my back cause spinal fractures?

Jan 7, 2017
Public Health
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Q. I have sciatica. I also have vertebral fractures caused by osteoporosis. I’d like to get physical therapy for my sciatica but am worried about damaging my spine further. What do you advise?

A. I am glad that you are interested in pursuing physical therapy to treat the sciatica. It’s the best treatment for it. The physical therapist is likely to show you how to do gentle stretching exercises for your upper legs, buttocks, and back, as well as how to use your back, core, and legs more effectively to avoid worsening the strain on your sciatic nerve. She will also train you to do exercises to strengthen your back and core. None of these maneuvers will damage the bones in your back. But it’s important for you to tell the therapist that you do have osteoporosis and vertebral fractures. She will keep that in mind as she works with you.

— Anne Fabiny, MD
Editor in Chief, Harvard Women’s Health Watch

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