Worried about shrinking as you get older? Before you laugh,
bear in mind that excessive curvature and shrinkage of the
upper spine in the elderly can sometimes result in a deformity
known as a "dowager's hump," which causes severe pain and
loss of movement.
Developing this condition may be preventable, however: Risk
for excessive spinal curvature appears to be influenced by
lower bone mineral density (BMD) and poor posture.
Disc degeneration and loss of vertebral bone density from
aging lead to weakening and deformity of spinal disc structures,
induced by gravity and postural stress, according to a recent
study appearing in the journal Spine. A biomechanical full-spine
model created using X-rays predicted osteoporotic spinal deformity
and height loss in aging patients. The computerized model
calculated reductions in vertebral strength, taking into account
osteoporosis and a person's posture.
In people with low BMD and poor posture, gross deformities
of the spine developed, including spinal fracture deformities
in the upper back; abnormal increases in curvature; and decreases
in vertebra height. These deformities caused a 25% reduction
in spinal height and a 9% decrease in total body height in
models of elderly individuals.
Traumatic wear and tear is not necessarily the cause of severely
curved upper spines or back shrinkage. These problems may
instead be caused by the stresses of everyday living, as a
combination of low BMD and poor posture. Upwards of 10 million
Americans have osteoporosis, and a significant number of these
individuals have less-than-perfect posture. Don't let yourself
be one of them. Exercise your back and torso, consume adequate
calcium in your diet and maintain proper upright posture to
help defend against unhealthy spinal curvature. Your chiropractor
can provide you with plenty of information on maintaining
a healthy back.
Keller TS, Harrison DE, et al. Prediction
of osteoporotic spinal deformity. Spine 2003:28(5),
Head to www.chiroweb.com/find/archives/senior
for more studies related to senior health.