“Stand up straight,” “don’t slouch,” and “stop hunching over” are probably all familiar phrases from childhood onward. As annoying as it may have seemed to be constantly nagged about poor posture, there was a kernel of truth in all of it: Maintaining good posture starting early in life can prevent any number of chronic pain issues later in life as an adult.
This need for good posture becomes even more important as we age. Any number of chronic conditions common in the elderly – ranging from osteoporosis, to arthritis, to slipped or ruptured spinal discs – can be exacerbated by poor posture. Add in the fact that your odds of seeing older patients in your practice may be on the rise, simply due to the fact that the baby boomer population hit more than 76 million in 2014.1
So how can you get your patients to keep good posture habits, especially as they get older?
1. Just keep moving
We all know the importance of exercise in maintaining good health. It not only helps maintain a healthy weight, but also keeps you flexible and strong. Obviously, you cannot expect all of your patients to be marathon runners, but that’s no reason why they can’t still exercise as a way to keep their joints healthy, which will help them maintain good posture.
Low impact exercise such as yoga or tai chi are still beneficial. For example, a 2014 article looked at the effect of tai chi exercise, compared to stretching exercises or standard care, on physical function, fall rates, and quality of life among 145 elderly stroke survivors.2 The tai chi group had two-thirds fewer falls than either of the other two groups. Furthermore, the tai chi group showed better aerobic endurance.
2. Supplement your diet
You’ve probably already talked to your patients about the importance of proper nutrition, including taking calcium and vitamin D supplements in order to keep their bones healthy.
However, some interesting research has shown that these nutritional supplements can provide an extra level of protection against falling by increasing postural balance.3 In this instance, a group of researchers studied the effect of adding calcium into an exercise routine for a group of 24 women with osteoporosis. Some of the women only received the supplements, while others undertook an exercise routine in addition to the supplements. Both groups showed a slowing in the progression of their osteoporosis, but the women who also undertook exercise had significantly less risk of falling.3
This would seem to indicate that combining exercise and nutrition provides your patients the best possible boost to their posture, especially as they get age.
3. Sit up straight
There is already an ample body of evidence showing that poor sitting posture can result in chronic lower back, shoulder, and neck pain. Hours at a time spent hunched in front of a computer monitor are usually the main culprits in such cases. Even your older patients who may have retired may suffer from poor posture due to many hours sitting in their favorite spot on the couch while watching television.
While it goes without saying that you also want your patients to not be so sedentary, there are things they can do to improve their posture while sitting down. This is where carrying a line of posture pillows and back supports that are specifically designed for use while sitting can not only provide your chiropractic patients with pain relief and better posture, but provide you with a second income stream for your office.
Of course, you will also want to put your senior patients on a chiropractic wellness program that includes regular adjustments to keep their older joints and tendons in the best shape possible to support better posture.
Helping your patients keep good posture as they age will reduce the incidence of falls, increase their strength and flexibility, and allow them to be active in their community for as long as possible.
- Pollard K, Scommenga P. Just how many baby boomers are there? Population Reference Bureau. Accessed 10/24/2016.
- Taylor-Piliae RE, Hoke TM, Hepworth JT, et al. Effect of Tai Chi on physical function, fall rates and quality of life among older stroke survivors. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2014 May;95(5):816-24.
- Swanenburg J, de Bruin ED, Stauffacher M, Mulder T, et al. Effects of exercise and nutrition on postural balance and risk of falling in elderly people with decreased bone mineral density: Randomized controlled trial pilot study. Clin Rehabil. 2007 Jun;21(6):523-34.