Poor posture is prevalent in older adults and can cause a myriad of problems. Poor posture causes the head to move forward and the shoulders to round, which in turn, causes neck and back pain. A once healthy gait becomes a shuffle increasing the risk of falling. People with kyphotic posture (extreme convex curvature of the upper spine) often have to use a cane or walker just to get around.
On her website, Jolie Bookspan writes, "The pressure of your own body weight on your neck muscles and discs over years of poor sitting, standing and bending habits is enough to injure your neck as badly as a single accident." She concludes with a positive note, "a degenerating disc is not a disease, but a simple, mechanical injury that can heal, if you just stop grinding it and physically pushing it out of place with unhealthy habits."
There are some stretching and strengthening movements you can do to improve posture and gait. Hold each position for 30 seconds.
The W stretch ( for upper back and neck): Your back is against a wall, knees bent. Step 12 inches away from the wall. Contract the abdominals with shoulders, back and buttocks against the wall. Without lifting the chin, touch the back of the head against the wall.
If this is impossible for you to do, just bring the head back as far as possible. Raise your arms to form a W. Bend elbows at shoulder height, wrists above elbows, with palms facing forward. With your body still against the wall, draw your arms back until elbows, wrists and hands are touching the wall.
Runner's stretch (for calf and Achilles Tendon, photo above): Stand with your hands on a wall. Keeping the right leg straight with the heel flat on the ground, step forward approximately 24 to 30 inches with left foot, then lean forward, bending the left knee. Repeat on the other leg.
Neck strengthener: Seated in a car or chair with a headrest, press hips back in the seat and lean back, pressing your head against the neck support. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 8 to 15 times.
Gluteal strengtheners: Lie facedown with your knees bent at a 10 to 15 degree angle. Squeeze the buttocks muscles. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 8 to 15 times.
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