We have all noticed that the older we get, the slower we tend to walk and with shorter step lengths with our feet wider apart. Is this all just to be expected when we get older, or could these changes in how we walk be related to any other aspect of our bodies? For example are these changes in the way we walk related to increased stiffness in our necks and mid backs?
Research performed by Russell, Kelleran and Morrison in Gait Posture 2016 Sept; 49: 388 – 93 looked into whether increasing neck and mid back stiffness may lead to these changes in walking patterns.
They asked three groups to walk across pressure sensitive plates. These groups were composed as follows: One of 12 people aged 20 – 29 years; another of 16 older people between 60 – 69 years and 15 older adults of between 70 – 79 years. The young adults were further divided into the following groups: They externally braced the neck of one group of young people; braced the mid back of another group of young people and braced both neck and mid back of another group of young people.
Results showed that the two older groups walked significantly slower with shorter step length and wider base compared to the young adults but that when the younger groups were braced in both neck and mid back, their walking patterns became similar to the older groups.
Therefore the conclusion is that age related tightness in the necks and mid backs may in part contribute to the changes in walking that we see in older people.
The message we can take from this is that the better movement we maintain as we age, particularly in the neck and mid back areas, the more efficiently we will be able to walk and therefore the better will be our overall health – better blood flow; muscle strength; joint flexibility etc, which all contribute to better quality of life.
Conversely the slower we walk then the slower we get generally as we gradually become more deconditioned, which is going to adversely impact everything we do. If we allow ourselves to gradually become stiffer and less mobile our entire body becomes less efficient and we are more likely to ‘feel our age’.
Don’t allow yourself to think that getting stiffer is a natural consequence of getting older. Chiropractic treatment can keep you moving better for longer by keeping those ageing joints moving optimally!