Physical Therapy Spotlight: Are you Shrinking?

By Tami Peavy – Special to Westside TodayTamiWEB

It seems that everyone is complaining that they are losing height these days. It’s very common to hear someone say “I used to be 5’10 but now I’m 5 foot 8!” How does this happen in life?

Shrinking, or height loss is due primarily to one thing, postural aging and decline. We all begin life with two wonderful curves; one in our neck and the other in our lower back. Each curve becomes a shock absorber to lessen the impact of walking, running and other upright activities. These curves give us the perfect alignment and balance to our bodies.

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As you age, gravity and the everyday repetitive movements in life, pulls your head and body downward and forwards. Without constant active strengthening of your postural muscles (neck, shoulders and glutes), you give gravity permission to keep pulling you forward every minute of the day. Eventually, you get stuck in these postures and begin to lose your spinal curves completely. Sadly, while posture is the thing that ages you most quickly, it’s the thing you most ignore.

One of main reasons this happens is because you spend so much time looking downward and keeping your head too far forward in all your daily activities; such as looking down at your phones, leaning forward in driving in the car, bending over a desk while working on a computer, and many many other times throughout the day.

Back - stock photo PT4UConsider that your head weighs about 10 pounds. Did you know that for every inch you let your chin drop and your head drift forward you double the weight of your head in pressure on your neck and back. So, you could be carrying around an extra 20 to 30 pounds every day. This extra weight compresses the front part of all your vertebrae. Soon your vertebrae begin to wear down creating lost height. You also become at increased risk for osteoporosis, arthritis and disc bulging. As the body follows the head, this weight compresses your chest and lung cavities and results in reduced oxygen exchange to your brain and body.

You can fight this shrinking and aging process by taking an active role in fighting gravity with proper body positioning. For instance, keep your chin up and level throughout your day instead of looking down so much of the time. This is particularly important when you use your cell phone or computer. For correct placement of your screens, lift the bottom of your cell phone or computer screen to be level with your chin as you hold your head in neutral with your chin level.  Keep your shoulders back and avoid letting them fall forward into a rounded position.

Most importantly, you should strengthen your postural and glute muscles, activating them daily against gravity. You can easily learn the therapeutic strengthening techniques for everyday use. Remember, gravity works on you every day of your life. It’s up to you in determining how much damage it will do on your body. In the meantime, remember to keep your chin up!

Tami Peavy is a Physical Therapist with over 15 years of experience in physical rehabilitation of adults with chronic pain, injuries, disease, aging disorders and postural deformities. As founder of PracticalTherapy4Ushe has created her own unique brand of instructional programs for healing offering free educational videos as well as dvds and downloads for personal use at home and at work. Go to praticaltherapy4U.com for more.