The spine is a chain of vertebrae (plural form of vertebra) that supports the trunk to maintain upright posture.
You’ve probably noticed the “bent-over” posture of many elderly people. The most likely cause of this is a condition called adult spinal deformity, which mostly affects older people.
The medical term for this condition is sagittal spine imbalance. it is most often caused by degenerative changes brought about by such things as osteoporosis and the normal wear and tear that affects the spine as we grow older.
Not to be confused with a hunchback, adult spinal deformity causes the back to curve forward. Those affected by this condition are unable to stand straight and find themselves facing the ground. In an effort to compensate, affected individuals may hyperextend their hips backward or bend their knees. at this point, many people decide to use a walker because this condition negatively affects their balance.
Normally, well-balanced posture causes no back pain. However, when we use our back muscles to keep a straight gaze and walk straight, the muscles are forced to work overtime, causing back pain.
Many people simply accept having adult spinal deformity as a fact of life. With people living longer, we see more of this condition. But weave the technology to address it.
Conservative therapy is the best place to start when treating someone suffering from adult spinal deformity. Therapy incorporates pain medication, anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy in the form of lifestyle exercises.
The level of pain brought about by this condition differs from person to person. While the majority of patients benefit from conservative therapy, a surgical option is available for those who simply can’t tolerate the pain. However, not everyone is a candidate for the surgery.
The surgical procedure takes between three and five hours, and extensive post-surgery physical therapy is required. studies show that following corrective surgery and therapy, a patient’s quality of life improves considerably.
You do not need to resign yourself to developing adult spinal deformity in your later years. a healthy lifestyle that incorporates regular exercise can help prevent this and other issues.
It is important to pay attention to the quality of your bones. Both women and men can develop osteoporosis. so, women over 60 and men past 70 should have bone density scans performed. Because osteoporosis is preventable and can be improved with treatment, Methodist Hospitals now offers an osteoporosis program.
We also know to take calcium supplements. instead of taking them blindly, consult a dietician who can decide how much you need to take based on your diet.
Maintaining healthy Vitamin D levels is critical. Unfortunately, many people have a Vitamin D deficiency. Even if you take medication for osteoporosis, make sure to have your Vitamin D and calcium levels checked as well.
Paying careful attention to your bone health before problems arise can increase the likelihood that you will truly enjoy your later years.
Elian M. Shepherd, MD, FACS, is the Medical Director of the Methodist Hospitals Spine Care Center.
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