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Are We Doomed to Turtledom?
Old 01-07-2010, 07:48 PM   #1
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Are We Doomed to Turtledom?

Over the holidays, I spent a good bit of time in the local mall. Wherever I go, I people-watch; always have done.

There seemed to be a lot of older folks around (60s and older, that is). Since I am not that terribly far from 60 myself, I started analyzing what made me deduce, from a distance, that they were in an older age group.

Of course, white or gray hair is a giveaway, as are those translucent pink, orange, and gold tints that say "pure white underneath this."

But the most distinguishing characteristic? All the older people - men and women - carried their heads far forward on their necks. Some people almost resembled turtles peering out of their shells. Some appeared to have no necks, just heads sticking far forward from their shoulders. I saw dozens of men and women with white or gray hair - and not one had a head sitting firmly atop a straight neck.

So I started observing slightly younger folks, in their 40s and 50s (like me). Sure enough, many people's heads were starting the forward tilt, and it was definitely an aging look.

People in their 30s and younger, generally carried their heads upright on straight necks.

So my question is: Are we all doomed to become head-forward turtles, or is there some way to fight this? It looks so uncomfortable.

Amethyst
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Old 01-07-2010, 08:02 PM   #2
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So my question is: Are we all doomed to become head-forward turtles, or is there some way to fight this? It looks so uncomfortable.

Amethyst
Amethyst, you know it's been a while since I saw 60. My posture is completely straight. It think it's from having the tango master keep saying- head up, back straight. I was in the habit of hunching forward to go cheek to cheek, but it does train in that turtle look that you rightly spot as aging.

Also, when I was young I had some lessons in Alexander technique which really improves posture. Have to get our monitors up high enough also.

Ha
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Old 01-07-2010, 08:16 PM   #3
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Now I know what people mean when they say I look like a turtle.
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Old 01-07-2010, 08:37 PM   #4
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Good observation, Amethyst.

No, we are not doomed to such posture. You have to fight it all along the way. We get more hunched over as we age due to developing tightness on the front of the body (pecs, hip flexors) and weakness in the back of the body (spine extensors, scapular retractors, hip extensors).

For a visual of this and a description of how it happens, check out this page:

Patterns of Postural Change | Sara Meeks Seminars (note Ms. Meeks focusing on treating those with osteoporosis, but postural changes can occur with or without the diagnosis of osteoporosis)

The fix? Specific stretching of the tight muscles and strengthening of the weak ones. In general, yoga tends to focus on the right stuff, pilates, too. And in general, I think staying active and maintaining strength is critical. You can gain strength at ANY age.
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Old 01-07-2010, 09:02 PM   #5
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So my question is: Are we all doomed to become head-forward turtles, or is there some way to fight this? It looks so uncomfortable.

Amethyst
Practice yoga! It really teaches you to stand in the straight up posture - shoulders back, head high. I'm sure it also helps condition all those supporting muscles so the standing straight is possible.

Whenever I am doing yoga regularly, I notice my everyday posture improving.

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Old 01-07-2010, 10:43 PM   #6
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I hunched over as a young woman because my parents told me I was too tall and I was ashamed. I went to PT in my 30's for another reason, and the therapist snapped at me to STAND UP STRAIGHT. She also had me do certain things with a table (I'm not telling what because it could be dangerous without instruction). I got 1/2 inch taller and got rid of the slouch. Now I do posture exercises every morning and my back looks straight to me.
A nice side effect of being taller is that it means I'm less overweight.
This won't necessarily work for everyone but it's working for me so far. I'm of boomer age.
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Old 01-07-2010, 10:55 PM   #7
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I think it's under your control. Most people don't make the effort to stand up straight. My posture has been improving thanks to my voice teacher who always tells me not to hunch over. It strains the vocal cords when you're singing, but most people do it without even knowing it. Thanks to better posture, I even "grew" 1/4 inch last year. I have some friends who are dancers well in their 60s but you would never know by looking at them, because of their perfect posture.
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Old 01-08-2010, 02:05 AM   #8
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Doomed, yes. I knew it when an elderly women watched me walking and said, "I see you have the same back condition as I do." OTOH, how young I feel depends on what I'm doing. Hobbies, 20-30 years younger, etc.
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Old 01-08-2010, 09:18 AM   #9
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Some curvature is going to happen for some people given enough time. My Mom is 89 and pretty curved. But it can and should be delayed with good posture and other efforts like yoga.

OK, YOU AT THE COMPUTER, YES YOU!

SIT UP STRAIGHT!
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Old 01-08-2010, 09:31 AM   #10
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Thanks for the great explanation, SimpleGirl. I am going to research this topic further. It sounds like many folks could avoid the turtle trap, if they are aware of it and willing to make the effort. I'm worried it may happen to me regardless. My father - who was good-looking and slim - developed the jut-forward head as he aged. The neck thing was actually what made him "look old."

I didn't see a single older person, among the scores I observed, who didn't have the turtle condition to some degree. Also, I saw so many early-middle-aged people who were developing it. And yet - as many other threads have observed - Americans spend billions and billions of dollars, and plenty of effort and suffering, on weight loss, liposuction, and plastic surgery. All in pursuit of looking younger. It seems like correcting one's posture could yield comparatively good youth-appearance value, for many people, in return for the amount of effort and zero money required. I am curious why more people aren't trying it.

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Old 01-08-2010, 09:49 AM   #11
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I'm glad to know this info too. My neck x-ray shows that my spine is curving the wrong direction...so I'm getting turtle neck. It really makes me mad. Glad that you made this observation since maybe it will motivate me to do something about it.

toofrugalformycat can you let me in on your table secret via private msg? Promise I'd be careful.
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Old 01-08-2010, 11:30 AM   #12
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I have been slouching since I first stood up on two feet. My mother told me to stand up straight for over 40 years. I am uncomfortable when I stand up straight and like my naturally sloched over position just fine. My parents are gone now so I will probably keep on slouching forever.

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Old 01-08-2010, 11:59 AM   #13
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MikeD: The same happens to me.
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Old 01-08-2010, 12:45 PM   #14
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My posture was great when I was a kid, but when I 'blossomed' at 16 years old I found myself hunching over trying not to draw attention to myself. Over the years I've tried to get over that feeling and have done pretty well, but I still find I'm hiding myself by slouching every once in a while.

Maybe I'll try yoga.
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Old 01-08-2010, 03:28 PM   #15
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Noted that turtle look in my forties, resolved not to have that look.
Very conscious to not hang my head, visualize of the "brace" ever so popular in the military academies.
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Old 01-08-2010, 06:22 PM   #16
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This syndrome is regrettable and is preventable. I was thinking about this today when I saw a young person at the workout center who had a pronounced round-shouldered posture. Is it b/c of all our time sitting in front of screens? I have seen it other times at the place where I workout. All age groups, but I am most startled when I see it with the kids. This issue is another reason why a discipline like yoga needs to be added to the basic fitness program -something aerobic, resistance, and yoga, pilates, etc. As I said at the outset, it is absolutely preventable, and, I fear, is symptomatic of an imbalance in one's daily habits. We're not turtles and looking like one means that we are giving in to gravity.
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Old 01-10-2010, 12:29 AM   #17
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I'm glad to know this info too. My neck x-ray shows that my spine is curving the wrong direction...so I'm getting turtle neck. It really makes me mad. Glad that you made this observation since maybe it will motivate me to do something about it.

toofrugalformycat can you let me in on your table secret via private msg? Promise I'd be careful.
Sorry, no, I thought about it and don't want to cause anyone to get hurt. Please see a licensed PT. It wasn't magic and I'm sure it's not a secret, but it involved bending backwards over a table by supporting some things and not others and it could FRY YOUR SPINE OR NECK if you don't do it exactly right (that's what she told me anyway).
BTW earlier I said I gained 1/2 inch in height, and I was wrong, it was only 1/4 inch, I don't know why I typed 1/2 inch.
My life has gotten a lot better since I've invested a little time with a good PT and a good trainer (and a lot of time exercising). I tried just uneducated exercising before that and didn't accomplish nearly as much, and hurt myself a lot.
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Old 01-10-2010, 01:22 PM   #18
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I had started the turtle neck syndrome in my mid 40s. Luckily due to a running injury I started a Pilates class using the reformer, then added Yoga and Pilates mat classes. I was able to run again within 6 months, but the biggest benefit was the improvement to my posture and over well being. Another added bonus was learning how to relax and breathe. I didn't know what I didn't know.

Note: Find a good Pilates or Yoga instructor. Start with a small group class or private instruction so they can monitor you for correct form.
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Old 01-10-2010, 04:45 PM   #19
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toofrugalformycat, no problem. I did a search and found a couple of exercises that I could do safely. I really like the idea of going to a physical therapist for a consultation.
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Old 01-10-2010, 04:50 PM   #20
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The fix? Specific stretching of the tight muscles and strengthening of the weak ones. In general, yoga tends to focus on the right stuff, pilates, too. And in general, I think staying active and maintaining strength is critical. You can gain strength at ANY age.
Glad to hear this as this one of our main activities now and hope to do more of in ER.
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