As a young, healthy individual it’s difficult to consider your life decades into the future. As important as it is, correlating your actions now to your life as an elderly person probably isn’t something you think about often. But we should. Everything we do, every single day, influences our future. Our actions take us further down certain paths. Smoking now can cause cancer later, being sedentary now can lead to heart disease - the examples are endless. The same can be said regarding thoracic mobility. If you don’t address poor thoracic mobility now, it can have serious consequences in later life.
The thoracic region of the spine is the middle of three spinal sections, containing the largest number of vertebrae. Over time, this part of the spine rounds forward, resulting in something called hyperkyphosis. This condition is seen predominantly in the elderly and has serious impacts on the lives of those affected. As it progresses, it may cause pain and decreased functionality in the shoulder and pelvic girdle, and all three sections of the spine. Also associated with hyperkyphosis are forward head posture, scapula protraction, reduced lumbar lordosis, and decreased standing height.
These changes significantly increase the risk of developing several serious health issues, including:
Physical Limitations The ability to perform activities of daily living and overall quality of life are at serious risk with decreased thoracic mobility. Associated impairments include: difficulty standing up, poorer balance, slower gait, and increased risk of falls.
Musculoskeletal Alterations The postural changes from poor thoracic mobility significantly increase the risk of vertebral and extremity fractures. Research shows older women have a 70% higher chance of fracturing their spine compared to a “normal” individual.
Mortality As thoracic mobility goes down, rates of mortality increase. Severe hyperkyphosis is associated with reduced vital capacity and is predictive of pulmonary death among women.
With a little dedication to strengthen the extensors of the spine, the effects of hyperkyphosis can be reduced or avoided all together. Strengthening these muscles can be as easy as practicing good posture through your body weight exercises.