Posture seems to have a strong correlation to health in aging and physical capacity, but to what degree? Many of us have watched as our relatives age their posture begins to develop a strong forward lean and many times we begin to see the rounding of the upper back that leads to a pronounced forward head posture (the appearance of a hump in the back and a head that juts far out in front of the shoulders).
Does that posture have an impact on a person’s health as they age? Some studies seem to point to a decline in function associated with that posture.
A study published in 2013 investigated the relationship between forward spinal inclination and various physical parameters.
WHAT WAS STUDIED?
The study looked at a population of 107 Japanese women aged 40-84, and looked at spinal posture by measuring spinal inclination. Physical performance was measured with a 6 meter walk time, a chair stand up test (standing from a chair without having to use arms to assist), functional reach, and a timed up and go test.
Additional info that was assessed was the number of co-morbidities the individuals had, NSAID use, knee pain, back pain, and osteoporosis.
WHAT DID THE STUDY FIND?
Several different methods of analysis were used to examine the relationship between posture and physical health while accounting for as many variables as they could. The findings showed a significant relationship between increased forward spinal inclination (posture that is rounding forward) and a decrease in physical function except for grip strength. The study also showed a relationship between worsening posture and higher amounts of co-morbidities, knee pain, back pain, and NSAID use.
WHAT DOES THIS TELL US?
Population studies like this can paint a picture related to an association between worsening posture and difficulties with aging. However, we can’t say that worsening posture causes all of the above mentioned problems. Clinically, it has been our experience that as posture worsens in elderly populations we see a decrease in one’s abilities to perform necessary activities of daily living and this study adds evidence to substantiate that experience.
Taking care of the physical structure of your body as you age remains incredibly important through an active lifestyle, good nutrition, chiropractic, and getting adequate sleep each night.
Abe Y, Aoyagi K, Tsurumoto T, et al. Association of spinal inclination with physical performance measures among community-dwelling Japanese women aged 40 years and older. Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2013;13(4):881-886. doi:10.1111/ggi.12020