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The importance of posture

Your posture matters

Posture is the shape your body takes when sitting, lying, standing or moving. Many people can adjust their position if they begin to feel uncomfortable, experience pain or recognise that a position could be harmful.

When a person has a movement difficulty caused by an injury, disability or age it becomes more difficult to freely adjust their position. Their body will move in less symmetrical movement patterns leading to weakness and asymmetry of different parts of the body.

It is important to understand how distorted someone’s body shape can become if the correct interventions are not put in place. This distortion can have a life threatening and life limiting impact; difficulties with breathing, eating & drinking, experience of pain and high risk of pressure care are just some of the complications.

The national postural care group, supported by NHS Education Scotland and Promoting A More Inclusive Society (PAMIS), have developed the following resources to provide practical help and guidance to those with postural difficulties.

This further guide has specific recommendations for posture associated with COVID complications.

A manequin with a posture sign from The Well Balanced Centre.
Posture advice by - The Well Balanced Centre

Posture changes in older adults

With age comes fundamental changes in posture. Minor posture changes may be a normal part of ageing, but a major curve in the thoracic spine (the part between your neck and low back) is called hyperkyphosis. Doctors usually just call it kyphosis, and lay people may describe it as ‘a hunched back.’

Health risks of Kyphosis

With kyphosis, you may have no symptoms or just mild discomfort. However potential problems can include:

  • Breathing problems

  • Balance issues

  • Problems doing daily living tasks

Age-related posture changes can result in people experiencing pain almost anywhere in their body.

Kyphosis can cause the mechanics of your joints to change which can cause dysfunction in any of the surrounding joints. Everything in the body is connected like a chain so pain in one area can affect how another area feels.

Why posture changes with age

Ageing affects three main “systems” responsible for your posture:

- The column of bones (vertebrae) in your spine;

- the disks that act as cushions between your vertebrae; and

- your muscles.

Osteoporosis (bone loss), and its milder form osteopenia, cause vertebrae to lose calcium, become less dense, and shrink a little. Weakened bones can add to posture problems.

Disk shrinkage. Over the years, your spinal disks’ rubbery exterior and squishy interior start to dry out. As a result, the bones in your spine creep closer together, which affects the way you move.

Muscle loss. Your muscles help support your spine and keep your torso upright, but you tend to lose muscle mass as you age. This process can be slowed with continued exercise.

Preventing posture problems

Kyphosis isn’t an inevitable issue as you age. Keeping your back, chest, and core muscles strong can help prevent posture problems. Consider strengthening exercises that focus on your shoulders and your core.

You should think about your posture as you go about your daily activities, like sitting up straight when you watch TV, and taking breaks from activities that promote poor posture, like leaning over a computer or a jigsaw.

Treatment for posture problems

Postural kyphosis can be reversed, and you may want to see how far a commitment to not slouching will take you before you try other options. Your doctor may recommend Physiotherapy to help.

Other posture problems, especially those associated with “old age” can be helped by least lifestyle choices to help keep problems from getting worse.

The lifestyle choices that can improve age-related posture problems include:

  • Taking regular exercise

  • Speaking to your doctor about calcium supplements.

  • Limiting alcohol use and avoiding tobacco – both of which can weaken bones.

If you have any postural concerns and would like some postural advice, contact The Well-Balanced Centre today for a full assessment.

(Please note: The Well-Balanced Centre does not take any responsibility for any advice given in any external links. The links provided are for information and are to be used at the discretion of each individual).

Agency Phoenix

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