Within four weeks in the study, Mayo Clinic researchers noted significant changes in balance and gait of the participants. They also recorded back extensor strength improvements and significant decrease in back pain.

"Most studies of falls address the effects of sedatives, weakness of the lower extremity muscles and neuromuscular diseases,” says Mehrsheed Sinaki, M.D., of Mayo Clinic's Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. "What we wanted to see in this study was the effects of intervention to shift the center of gravity, and improve back strength and gait.”

The Mayo Clinic researchers studied women in community-dwelling settings over age 60. Past studies have shown that community-dwelling people have a higher risk of falls and fractures than persons whose mobility is severely restricted. Twelve women in the study suffered from kyphosis, a progressive curvature of the spine that includes severe, progressive muscle weakness.

At the start of the four-week comparison period, the two groups exhibited significant differences, but as the women with curvature of the spine continued the program, they showed improvements in balance, gait and back pain. The women used a weighted kypho-orthosis (WKO), a specially weighted back support device that centers its weight on the posterior of the spine and helps the person centre her body better over her legs. It can weigh between 1.75 and 2.5 pounds, centred below the shoulder blades. A patient's doctor determines the best weighting and placement of the device.

"The report validates using the WKO and a dynamic exercise program to improve biomechanics in persons with kyphosis,” writes Allan Tencer, Ph.D., of the Department of Orthopedics at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. "This, in turn, can reduce the possibility of the person falling and prevent the downstream, potentially life-altering consequences of falling.”

MEDICA.de; Source: Mayo Clinic