It is common for people with Parkinson’s to experience a change in posture and postural instability. People with Parkinson’s often tend to be set forward due with poor posture and have minimal ability get to straighten or shift weight backward without falling. While the exact disease process that causes postural instability is not precisely understood, one theory is that it may be due to damage of noradrenergic neurons, which are the nerve cells that produce the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. It is therefore crucial to be diligent about fighting bad posture from as early as possible.
Parkinson’s affects control of automatic activities, so posture changes may occur without the brain’s automatic reminders to stand up straight. These changes may include stooped or rounded shoulders, decreased low back curve or forward lean of the head or whole body, making you look hunched over. A tendency to bend or flex forward is the most common change in posture seen with Parkinson’s. There can also be a tendency to flex or bend to one side. It is not known why this occurs but there are many factors that can lead to changes in posture.
Muscle rigidity (stiffness) and imbalance of bigger muscles overpowering the smaller muscles can cause you to bend over, brain changes that control posture or dystonia, being in one position for too long, the muscles that flex, or forward bend the spine or hip may become hyperactive.
It is important to try to maintain an upright posture because stooped posture can have other negative effects such as:
- Neck or back pain can occur when natural spine curves are out of alignment.
- Stooped posture reduces your ability to take deep breaths, which impacts your ability to speak clearly and loudly. Stooped posture also reduces eye contact. Combined with other Parkinson’s symptoms like low voice volumeand facial masking, this can have a big impact on your ability to communicate.
- Loss of flexibility from changing posture can make it hard to do many small movements in your day, like raising arms overhead while getting dressed or getting up out of a chair.
- Poor posture can put you off balance and lead to falls.
Strengthening: Due to the fact that the anterior body muscles decrease in flexibility, the opposing back muscles are unable to perform their job of maintaining a straight back and tend to become overstretched. This in turn leads to weakness. Improving the strength of your back musculature will help keep you upright for a longer period of time.