Effects of Osteoporosis on Posture
by Nick A. Titley, M.S., NPI-Certified Posture Specialist
Osteoporosis is one of the most common bone related diseases in the United States and it can have a direct impact on postural alignment as you age. The National Osteoporosis Foundation states that 52 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis and have low bone mass. One in two women and one in four men aged fifty and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Experts predict that by 2025 osteoporosis will be responsible for three million fractures and $25.3 billion in health care costs per year.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis is a bone disease that causes you to lose bone mass, making the bones more fragile and weak. When placed under a microscope healthy bones have a honeycomb structure but osteoporosis makes the holes and spaces much larger.
If your bones lose their density then they become weaker and more susceptible to breaking. Osteoporosis is difficult to detect; breaking a bone may be your first sign of having the disease. If you have osteoporosis then it means your bones have lost density or mass and the structure of your bone tissue is abnormal.
Weak and thin bones could break from minor falls, or from simple actions like bumping into things or sneezing. Osteoporosis can cause areas like your hips, spine, and wrists to break, and can cause severe pain that may not subside. It can also cause you to lose height because it affects the spine bones. The spinal bones, or vertebrae, will break or collapse affecting your posture which will cause you to look hunched, or stooped over.
According to Dr. Kathy M. Shipp, without attention to good postural alignment the slumped forward, or stooped over posture that is often associated with older adults can happen to you. With this stooped/hunched over position, you could lose up to 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) of height. If you have suffered a spinal fracture from osteoporosis then you are more at risk for developing this condition and this 1.5 inches, or greater height loss during your adult years could be an indication of an osteoporotic vertebral fracture.
Dr. Kathy also explains that spinal/vertebral fractures cause height loss because the fractured vertebral bodies compress. Most osteoporotic vertebral fractures cause height loss either from a full compression fracture ( i.e. where the entire vertebral body compresses) or from a wedge fracture (where the front of the vertebral body is most compressed).
With either of these fractures, the thoracic spine, or your mid back, increases causing hyperkyphosis and the natural curve in your lumbar spine area, or lower back, decreases causing hypolordosis. After spine fractures from osteoporosis, the hyperkyphosis in your thoracic spine and the hypolordosis of your lumbar spine will result in your head, shoulders, and upper back being positioned more forwardly.
Neither the height loss in your intervertebral discs nor the height loss in your bones after a fracture can be recovered, but Dr. Shipp suggests that attention to posture and targeted exercises can prevent you from worsening your posture. The National Posture Institute's Certified Posture Specialists are trained to develop targeted programs to help you with your posture so that you avoid such an issue.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) Senior Health explains on its website that Osteoporosis can be treated and prevented with healthy lifestyle choices. The NIH suggests that you maintain a proper diet, exercise, and consider medications, because these options will help you prevent further bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures.
The Mayo Clinic, a non-profit health organization, explains that adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and regular exercise will help keep your bones intact. Strength training combined with weight bearing exercises, or exercises that involve lifting weights, helps improve your muscles and bones. Consider walking, jogging, running, stair climbing, skipping rope, and skiing to develop the bones in your legs, hips, and lower spine.
Osteoporosis is a serious disease that affects millions of Americans. With proper postural alignment, a balanced diet, and regular exercise you could avoid a painful future. Speak to a doctor if you're unsure, or if you think you may have symptoms, and consult an NPI-Certified Posture Specialist to help you develop a program that will ensure you maintain good postural alignment.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013, June 21). Osteoporosis. Retrieved from mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/basics/prevention/con-20019924
- The National Osteoporosis Foundation. (n.d.). What is osteoporosis?. Retrieved from nof.org/articles/7
- NIH Senior Health. (2013, March). Osteoporosis. Retrieved from nihseniorhealth.gov/osteoporosis/whatisosteoporosis/01
- Shipp, D. K. (2011). Changing the way we age: Improve Posture. Functional U, 9(3), Retrieved from Improve_Posture_ICAA_FunctionalU2011_MayJune.pdf