Preventing spinal bone fractures in everyday life

Elderly lady with a walking stick getting out of an armchair

If you've already fractured a vertebra (spinal bone) in the past, you have an increased risk of it happening again. There are many things you can do to prevent further vertebral fractures – like moving in a back-friendly way, for instance.

Wrist and hip fractures are usually caused by falls. In people with osteoporosis, spinal bones can already fracture during everyday activities if too much strain or unusual strain is put on them. If you have osteoporosis of the spine, it is a good idea to make sure you move and hold your body in a back-friendly way wherever possible.

Three types of movement in particular can cause vertebral fractures:

  • Lifting and carrying things that are too heavy
  • Bending the spine too much
  • Twisting the spine too far

With just a little care, you can avoid making these kinds of movements in everyday life. For example, you can take the strain off your spine by lifting and carrying objects in a certain way. It is best to completely avoid doing things like moving furniture or carrying heavy objects.

Good to know:

People who have osteoporosis can still lift and carry everyday objects. But it's then a good idea to use the right technique.

Especially if you have back pain, it's best to make sure that your bottom is touching the backrest when sitting down, and that your back is straight. A small cushion between the backrest and your lower back can provide extra support and help keep the natural curve of your spine. Sitting for a long time may also put strain on your spine. Because of this, it's a good idea to get up every half hour if possible and take a few steps.

How can you avoid "bad" movements?

When bending down and lifting things, we often keep our legs straight and bend our upper body. To protect your spinal bones from fractures, it's a good idea to crouch down and keep your back straight when bending over and lifting things. It is best to move slowly and purposefully, and to avoid sudden fast movements because they can easily cause injuries. It is also important to hold things close to your body when carrying them.

When carrying shopping bags, it's a good idea to spread the weight over both sides of your body. If you can’t keep your upper body straight when carrying them, they are too heavy. Let your legs do the work when putting the bags down or picking them up – in other words, bend your knees to crouch down and then straighten your legs again. Make sure that you keep your back straight. If possible, don’t put shopping bags down on the floor. Instead, put them on a higher surface like a chair and then pick them back up from there. You can also use a shopping trolley to transport food and other kinds of shopping back home.

The following table lists other everyday movements that can be risky for people with spinal osteoporosis, and suggests alternatives.

Risky movements Suitable alternatives
Bending your upper body or spine too much. For instance:
  • Bending down to pick something up
  • Leaning over to make a bed
Bend at the knees:
  • When lifting things, keep your back straight and lower your body by bending your legs at the knees, hold the object close to your body, and keep your back straight when straightening up again
  • Use a gripper to pick things up
  • Keep your back straight and bend at the knee instead of bending over
Twisting your spine too far or suddenly. For example:
  • Sweeping up leaves or clearing snow
  • Getting out of the car
  • Reaching for an object behind you
  • Turn with your whole body instead of twisting your spine, by first moving your foot and then the rest of your body
  • Similarly, when sitting: first put your legs into position, then your upper body
  • Do not turn your upper body “to the max”
Lifting objects. For instance:
  • Putting things in – or taking things out of – high shelves and cupboards
  • Placing luggage on overhead luggage racks
  • Hold the weight close to your body when lifting
  • Use a stable stepping stool when putting things in or taking things out of high shelving units or cupboards
  • Store heavy things at waist height
  • Ask someone to help you
Putting objects down. For example:
  • Putting a laundry basket on the floor
  • Placing things in or taking things out of low shelves and cupboards
  • Keep your back straight and bend your legs at the knee when lifting and putting things down
  • Hold the weight close to your body
  • Try to store heavy things at waist height

The following illustrations show how you can lift things and put them back down again without overstraining your back. They also show how to avoid twisting your spine, like when loading things into the car from a shopping cart.

Illustration: How to put a heavy object down in a back-friendly way
Illustration: How to move a heavy object without twisting your spine

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Created on April 26, 2023

Next planned update: 2026


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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