A Good Gait & Posture Helps Arthritis
Have you had one doctor after another telling you this is just the natural process of the body getting older? That you should expect to have arthritis? Sure, if you don’t take care of your damaged joints now, as you get older, they will be worse.
- Dr. Julian Chipley
Smooth Out Your Walk to Lessen the Friction.
Gait & posture, both good and bad, absolutely can have an impact on osteoarthritis. How does bad gaitn & posture affect osteoarthritis? Chronic bad posture places abnormal chronic stresses on your body. These stresses make it harder for your muscles to take the pressure off your joints when walking (your gait) and your joints end up paying the price. For an easy example, consider your head and neck.
Your head weighs a little more than 10 pounds - or slightly more than a bowling ball. Your neck is supporting your head 24 hours a day with only a brief rest when you lie down at night. Even with perfect posture, this is a lot to ask of your neck! Good neck posture mandates that your head rests directly above your neck. Poor neck posture typically consists of carrying your head somewhat forward in relation to your neck. This places an increased stress on your neck. A good analogy is carrying a bowling ball over your head. Carrying the ball over your head is what your neck does with good posture. Carrying the bowling ball 20 degrees in front of your head is a lot harder and your arm muscles will get more tired more quickly.
What happens with increased stress on your neck from poor posture? The large muscles, and the smaller postural muscles, fatigue and the forces from your head and neck are translated through the small joints in your neck. This leads to greater wear-and-tear and, potentially, earlier osteoarthritis. If your neck already has osteoarthritis, then the poor posture can worsen the pain. It is the same with the other joints in your body. Poor posture increases the stresses they face, which increases the chances of them developing osteoarthritis.
If poor gait & posture increases the risk of developing and/or worsening osteoarthritis, can good gait & posture cure osteoarthritis?
Good gait & posture may not cure osteoarthritis, but it will certainly help. Just as poor posture places increased stress on the joints in your body, good posture decreases those stresses. Good anatomic posture allows your muscles to work most effectively to unload your joints, take the pressure off them, and allow them a chance to heal.
Good posture to improve your gait does not happen overnight. If you don't already have good posture, realize that it takes steady, consistent attention and work. But the work is well worth it. Postural exercises lead to good posture, which can be a very rewarding experience.
-Grant Cooper, MD, is an interventional spine and joint pain medicine specialist & co-director of the Princeton Spine and Joint Center in Princeton, N.J.