Parkinson’s disease (PD) 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.
There are several factors that can lead to changes in posture:
- Muscle stiffness or rigidity
- “Off” time, when your medications aren’t working as well
- When you have been in one position for too long
- If you are concentrating on another activity (like walking or working at the computer)
It is important to try to maintain an upright posture because stooped posture can have other negative effects:
- 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 volume and 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.
Managing Posture Changes
Good posture is essential to maintaining balance. Keeping the body correctly aligned makes movements more stable and efficient. Try these strategies to maintain good posture:
- Use a mirror to check posture (both front and side views) throughout the day.
- Be aware of posture changes. Try to catch yourself stooping or leaning and take action to make corrections. Ask people to tell you if they notice you stooping.
- Change position often. Take movement breaks!
- Get back (lumbar) or neck (cervical) rolls or cushions for better postural alignment when sitting.
- Consider Yoga or Tai Chi classes.
- Ask your doctor or call the Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline (1-800-473-4636) for a physical therapy referral. A therapist can give you specific posture recommendations and exercises.
Stooped posture makes the muscles in the front of your body less flexible and the muscles in the back of your body weaker. Perform simple posture exercises and stretches throughout the day.
Page reviewed by Dr. Kathryn P Moore, Movement Disorders neurologist at Duke Health, a Parkinson's Foundation Center of Excellence.