Posture Perfect – How posture impacts your health.

This may be hard to hear, but your mom was right. Your posture matters. And not just for the reasons your mom may have harped on you for, it matters for your health too. Let me convince you to take notice of your posture, in particular, the upper and mid back, the region called your thoracic spine.

You may have been scared into sitting up straight by threats of getting a dowager hump or a noticeable forward curve in your upper and mid back. This posture is called a hyperkyphosis in the medical world. 40% of adults over the age of 60 have a hyperkyphosis that has developed over their lifetime due in part to genetics, repetitive movements or prolonged postures, sedentary lifestyle, lack of postural awareness and weakening of antigravity postural muscles.

Perfect Posture

Why does hyperkyphosis matter? The average kyphosis is 20-40 degrees in the younger population. Hyperkyphosis is a curvature of 40 degrees or more. When the thoracic curvature gets past 40 degrees people can experience limited spinal movement, poor self-image, increased risk of falls, impaired respiratory function, difficulty with daily activities, social limitations, lower life satisfaction and even earlier mortality. Recently, hyperkyphosis has been recognized as a significant health concern and research has started to investigate potential treatments and to better understand how hyperkyphosis affects our overall health.

Treatments for hyperkyphosis can include bracing, surgery, and physical therapy. Recent studies have documented the effect of specific postural education and exercise can have on decreasing the degree of hyperkyphosis. These exercises focus on strengthening spinal extensors, creating spinal mobility, and postural awareness. The exercises in the study conducted by Wendy Katzman and published in Osteoporosis International, are like exercises performed in pilates exercise and physical therapy treatment. Additionally, both pilates and physical therapy bring awareness to postural alignment and movement patterns.

The essence of pilates is based upon spinal mobility and strength and building awareness and control of one’s body. These concepts are the basis for good posture and development of kinesthetic awareness or knowing where your body is in space. Essentially, pilates is the perfect exercise for hyperkyphosis!