If You Notice This When You Stand, It Could Be an Early Sign of Parkinson's

This subtle shift in your posture may be a symptom of something serious.

As you age, it's par for the course that various body parts begin to crack, pop, or ache. Some wear and tear happens with time, and many changes may be annoying but ultimately harmless. Some changes, however, could be linked to more serious underlying causes, including a degenerative condition like Parkinson's disease. Experts say one of the common earliest signs of Parkinson's can be observed when you're standing. Read on to learn what you should look out for.

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A stooped or hunched posture can be an early sign of Parkinson's disease.

Woman with a hunched back

Experts say that a stooped or bent posture can be an early sign of Parkinson's disease. Pharmacist Seamus Flynn and his wife, oncologist Dearbhaile Collins, PhD, explain that, "Parkinson's affects the autonomic nervous system, which leads to a loss of control of automatic activities … A stooped or hunched posture would normally cause a response from the brain to correct the posture and stand up straight, but this response is missing in Parkinson's due to under-activation of the autonomic nervous system."

According to the Parkinson's Foundation, these changes in posture can include stooped or rounded shoulders, decreased lower back curve, or a forward lean of the head or whole body that makes you look hunched over.

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There are a few factors that can contribute to a shift in posture.

Woman with a hunched back

In addition to the changes to your autonomic nervous system, there are a few other reasons people with Parkinson's experience stooped or hunched posture. According to the Parkinson's Foundation, possible contributing factors include being in one position for too long, concentrating on another activity, and muscle stiffness or rigidity

"Since people affected by Parkinson's disease lose control over their muscles to a certain degree, they experience uncontrolled stiffening of limbs," explains family physician Waqas Ahmad, MBBS. This stiffening can contribute to a hunched posture.

Experts say you should try to maintain an upright posture.

Woman with back pain

Per the Parkinson's Foundation, having a stooped posture can have adverse effects, so it's important to try to maintain good, upright posture. The foundation says bad posture can lead to neck and back pain, a loss of flexibility, and being off balance and potentially falling. Additionally, "stooped posture reduces your ability to take deep breaths, which impacts your ability to speak clearly and loudly. Stooped posture also reduces eye contact," the organization notes. Since Parkinson's can also cause you to speak more quietly and to have reduced facial expression, this can make it even harder to communicate.

The Parkinson's Foundation suggests using a mirror to check your posture throughout the day, changing positions often, taking movement breaks, getting back or neck cushions, and trying tai chi.

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Make sure you're aware of the other early signs of Parkinson's disease.

Man with tremors holding hand still to eat soup

Stooped or hunched posture isn't the only early sign of Parkinson's to keep an eye out for. Ahmad says that tremors, slowed movement, rigid muscles, and a reduction or loss of smell can also be early symptoms of the disease. According to the Parkinson's Foundation, you may also experience small handwriting, trouble sleeping, trouble walking, constipation, a low voice, and dizziness. If you notice any of these signs, make an appointment to talk to your doctor.

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