A humped back or a hunched back is something that afflicts some seniors. It’s a condition where the spine bends and the back begins to stoop. You may think this is just a part of getting old. However, physical changes which result from disease and lifestyle choices are not considered part of the normal aging process.
What Causes a Postural Stoop?
Quite often, it occurs from a vertebral fracture due to bone density loss. This is a medical condition known as osteoporosis. It often results from a lack of calcium, magnesium and vitamin D, and inevitable changes in the hormones. These lead to the weakening of the bones, which become brittle and fragile.
Osteoporosis is preventable and to a degree, reversible. Damaged discs and fractures can certainly cause damage to the spine and cause the back to stoop, but if you want to try and keep your posture and back as straight as you can as you age, here are a few tips to help you.
Keep an Active, Healthy Lifestyle
Exercises are extremely important. They will strengthen your body and help you maintain strong bones, muscles, and joints. Include weight-bearing exercises. These are activities that make you move against gravity without overstressing your bones, muscles, and joints. Walking, dancing, and climbing the stairs are some of the weight bearing exercises you can try.
Swimming is another great exercise as it strengthens your bones and muscles to improve posture and flexibility. Another group of exercises you can do are those that strengthen your ‘core.’ Core-strengthening exercises build strong core muscles that help stabilize the spine and the lower back to make you stand tall. There are exercise programs that focus on strengthening your core muscles, such as Yoga or Pilates.
Along with exercise, you need to look after your health by not smoking, or drinking excessively. You may be wondering how this can affect your posture. Smoking increases the risk and severity of osteoporosis and subsequent risk of bone fracture. It interferes with the absorption of calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for healthy bones.
Excessive alcohol consumption can also damage your bones, which affects your posture. Alcohol, like smoking, interferes with the absorption of calcium and vitamin D. Good bone health is one of the many reasons to not smoke, and to minimize alcohol consumption.
Eat a Rich Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin D Diet
Calcium is very important for building strong bones, and magnesium is required for calcium absorption. The recommended daily intake of calcium for women aged 50 and below is 1,000 milligrams. For women above 50, they need 1,200 milligrams of calcium every day.
There are many calcium supplements available. However, natural food sources are best. Good sources of calcium include milk, cheese, and dairy products, salmon, almonds, tofu, and dark-green leafy vegetables.
Although calcium is the major mineral in bone composition, recent research strongly indicates that most people are not lacking in calcium intake. No matter how much calcium is ingested, if the body is lacking in other essential nutrients, primarily vitamin D and magnesium, the calcium is not absorbed as it should be and is excreted.
D3 is the type of vitamin D needed for calcium absorption. Women up to the age of 70 need 600 IU while 800 IU is recommended for women 70 and older. The best source of vitamin D is for you to soak up the morning sun, on bare skin, such as forearms. You can also source vitamin D from eggs, saltwater fish and liver.
Avoid Prolonged Sitting
Prolonged sitting is bad for your posture as it can cause you to round your shoulders and make your back stoop. Therefore, be conscious of how you sit. Sit with your spine straight and your shoulders back. Keep your knees at a 90° angle and your feet flat on the floor.
Your weight must be distributed equally on both hips. Don’t lean your weight on one side and change your position every 30 minutes or get up and walk around. If you have been sitting for more than an hour, you should definitely get up and get moving. This makes your muscles stretch, facilitates blood circulation and encourages bone growth.
While you are sitting, even if sitting correctly, your body is not being stressed by gravity as it needs to, to trigger bone formation. Even if you can’t walk, or engage in another exercise, standing is so much better than sitting for long periods.
Prolonged sitting compromises your posture bigtime!
If you are spending a lot of your time sitting at a computer, avoid leaning forward as this places strain on your neck and back muscles. Using an ergonomic chair is recommended to help you maintain a correct posture while sitting.