Skip to content

Do People Shrink with Age?

older man smiling and sitting on a benchWe often find that when we see relatives whom we have not seen for a long period of time that they sometimes appear to have lost height. This is why at initial consultations at Inspired Chiropractic we always ask, “how tall are you?” before we measure someone. It is surprising how much height people can lose.

One cause of this is the thinning of the intervertebral discs in the back. These spongy structures which are slotted between the vertebrae in the spine, act as shock absorbers and aid mobility of the spine. These can be joined in severe cases with wedge fractures of the spine that can significantly reduce height and form a rounded posture within the spine.

Posture is a key factor here and it is worth remembering that just sitting up straight does not resolve this. There are however several things that do have a real and demonstrable impact in reducing the damage of these processes.

  • Nutrition (especially vitamin D and calcium rich vegetables)
  • Being physically active
  • Exercises that target posture (tai chi, yoga and gym rehab)
  • Weight-bearing exercises (that increase and maintain bone density)
  • Avoiding a sitting lifestyle
  • Having the spine checked and maintained by a chiropractor

Another important aspect is that as we age we can also experience a progressive loss of skeletal muscle and function called ‘sarcopenia’.

Sarcopenia can make a person more frail, affecting balance and movement. If this is combined with an increasing forward stoop, kyphosis, there will be a further appearance of ‘shrinking’.

It is thought that people can lose from around half a centimetre to over one centimetre of height each decade past the age of 40 and this accelerates past 70 to 80 years of age.

Other important contributory factors include taking medication for depression, breast cancer, prostate cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and epilepsy. Corticosteroids are especially damaging.

Some medical conditions such as chronic liver and kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid conditions, coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and low sex hormones in men and women also contribute to this problem.

Chiropractors are very interested in the mechanics and function of the spine. Whilst clients are often focused on symptoms such as pain and pins and needles, chiropractors usually focus on the function of the spine and how to improve this. This helps with sarcopenia.

There have been several studies that suggest that regular chiropractic care together with lifestyle changes significantly reduce the effects of ageing on the spine including mobility, posture and a loss of height.

Chiropractic care is safe for clients of all ages. There are special techniques for those who are fragile and have bone-weakening processes.

Add Your Comment (Get a Gravatar)

Your Name


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

Book Now