We have all heard it.
People shrink as they get older.
But what does that mean?
Why does it happen?
Is there anything we can do to stop it?
I, for one, do not want to shrink. I am six feet tall, and I never want to have to tell anyone that I am anything under that. (I may be 5'11 3/4). Shhh.
I am going to tell you how people shrink.
We all walk around the world on 2 legs (hopefully), while swinging our arms, which are all connected to our spine. The vertebra, or bones of the spine, are designed to protect your spinal cord, like armor. This is good thing as it is through this cord that your brain is able to communicate with your body.
However, the bones of the spinal cord MUST be able to move separately and independently of each other so we can do complex motions like twist, bend, kick a soccer ball, and get dressed in the morning. Your discs are like these shiny, hydrated shock absorbers that are located between each of your spinal bones to cushion them as you move about the world and your life.
What happens as we go through all of the things we go through in life - aging, poor posture, car accidents, traumatic birth, work/ relationship related stress, having your brother punch you in the face while you jump on the couch together when you are 6 years old (That last one may be a personal story) - What happens as all of these events happen in your life is that the bones in your back become locked up and stop moving. This is known as a subluxation.
At this point, you may or may not have pain. One of the things that happens when you have a subluxation, is that the disc in between the spinal bones that have stopped moving, starts to have fluid leech from it. This happens because the disc is avascular, meaning that it does not receive any blood flow. No blood = no water & no nutrients.
So how does the disc survive then?!?
Your shiny disc shock absorbers receive nutrients from movement. So when your spinal bones stop moving, your disc gets dehydrated and starts to degenerate. I am sure you know and have seen an older person that has started to hunch forward with age - This is how we shrink.
The sad thing is that I see teens and young professionals with this posture as well! Our smart phones are keeping us super connected, but wreaking havoc on our posture and our height.
Are you headed for a life as a shorter adult? Learn how to check your posture and see if you have it under control after watching here:
Stay tall, my friends.
Dr. Drwencke is a sports chiropractor, speaker, & clinical athlete in San Francisco. Her posts reflect some of the day to day interactions and questions from patients and clients. Dr. Drwencke strives to empower people through injury rehab and sports performance to lead healthy, productive lives.