We’ve all seen it on our patients: the elderly male with such an exaggerated forward-flexed posture it looks as though he will fall over if not for the cane propping up his torso, or the middle aged woman who’s “hunch” or kyphosis is accentuated further by her significant loss of lordosis, stiff pelvis, and short hamstrings. Providing education to our patients about proper body posture is necessary as this contributes to their overall health.
Certainly, age related changes and conditions occur, we become stiff, our bones become brittle and our discs become more rigid and narrow. Aside from this, far too many cases of preventable postural deformities occur and unfortunately, once a person is in the later stages of life they are almost impossible to correct.
Of course, posture related deformities are no longer exclusive to the older population, it is now more prevalent than ever in our youth and makes the job of patient education even harder for us. Children and teenagers are receiving increased medical care for posture related conditions. Chronic back pain is at the top of the list. I see far too many young men and women with significant slouched postures. Imagine how many hours are spent in front of the TV or computer today versus 10 years ago. The last statistic I read stated up to 6 to 7 hours per day! Paired with a lack of awareness and decreased activity, poor posture is an epidemic in our society and one that is not going away any time soon.
Therefore, it is increasingly important for those of us in the healthcare field, especially in the Physical Therapy profession, to educate our patients and their families on the importance of correcting body posture with daily activities while increasing physical activity. In addition, we need to increase awareness of the deformity that can occur later in life and the painful conditions that may occur right now.
I always tell patients the best thing they can do to improve their posture is to simply to, “be aware of it.” Aware of it in the car, aware of it on the bus, aware of it at their desks, aware if it as they are standing, walking, squatting, sitting, bending, talking, exercising, cleaning, playing, eating and most of all when they are doing any of these things for a prolonged period of time.
As healthcare professionals, patient education is a part of our job. We can do what we can to help them recover from illness and injury but eventually, it is their responsibility as well to take good care of themselves. Let’s teach our youth to be proactive. A little effort today will go a long way and will likely prevent illness and injury in the future. Does it really surprise you that your mothers and grandmothers were right?
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