MOVEMENT AS MEDICINE: How I am Healing My Thoracic Compression Fractures: Part I

I’m home from LA. My trip there took an unexpected turn. I ended up in the Emergency Room with two thoracic (mid-back) compression fractures. Probably from pulling and pushing heavy suitcases.

I left the ER with a thoracic brace, a walker, and a Vicodin prescription. I extended my stay four days until I could get medical travel clearance to fly back to PV (NO lifting!). An angel friend flew with me and lugged my suitcases.

Now I am mostly in bed. Resting my precious thoracic spine. When I am out of bed, seated or standing, I wear a beautiful Frida Kahlo brace. This amazing device stabilizes my thoracic vertebrae while they heal. Like a cast on a broken arm.

I would like to share some of my journey with you this week and next. That fact that I injured myself in this way at all was quite a surprise to me. I am very active, fit, and strong. I did not fall. I did put too much pressure on my thoracic spine. It was a silent injury at first, with the pain showing up about 24 hours later.

The whole experience has humbled me. I now know first hand that being active is no guarantee that I will not be injured. And I am learning patience. And how to move my body when some parts of me cannot move.

After I left the ER, a physical therapist came to my house. She showed me how to use my brace and ordered NO “BLT.” No bending, lifting, and twisting. Could I move my arms? Yes. Could I move my legs? Yes. This was very good news. Because I knew that I could continue to move, with intelligence, as long as I did not BLT my upper, mid and lower back.

I want to emphasize that my story and my journey may not look like yours. Thoracic vertebral fractures can be slight, medium or severe. In each case, the options for moving and the prescriptions for not moving will be different. If you have a compression fracture, please listen to your own doctor and your own body.

I am able to do many movements that help keep my cells happy and my spirits up. I can do any supine arm and leg move that does not involve a spinal twist or rotation. I can do any standing movement as long as I am braced and maintain good posture and don’t bend, lift or twist. I love practicing squats (braced) with my hands on a shelf or counter for support.

Here is a flat back hip hinge that I do with my walker.

Sit in a chair in Good Posture, braced, with your walker in front of you.
Breath in. Breath out. Take a few minutes to become aware of your breath.
Place your hands on the cross-bar in the middle of the walker.
Hinge forward at your hips without rounding your spine. Imagine that your spine is a broomstick or PVC pipe that cannot bend.
Fold your spine forward without moving the pelvis.
Keep the chest open. Keep the back of the neck (cervical) long.
Let your arms and the walker support your hip hinge and forward fold.
Go as far as you can and maintain good form.
Stay for 3, 6, 9 breaths. Listen to your inner athlete.
When you are ready to return to seated Good Posture, bring the walker back toward you while you maintain a flat back.

Summing Up:

Thoracic compression fractures need the same TLC that a broken arm does and more. They take time to heal. Listen to your body. Check with your doctor. Move what you can without bending, lifting, or twisting your upper, mid, and lower back. More next week!

Start Position

End Position

Via Anderson, E-RYT, is a Yoga and movement coach and teaches the Intelligent Movement Forever system of healthy movement in a weekly online class, in private sessions, and at Yoga Vallarta during the high season. This 77-year-old grandmother practices what she preaches and teaches. She is the author of “How to Move Without Pain: A Compendium of Intelligent Movement”, to be released in 2019.