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Slower upper extremity function in older adults with hyperkyphosis negatively impacts the 6-min walk test.



Approximately 30% to 40% of older adults have hyperkyphosis, defined as excessive curvature of the thoracic spine. Hyperkyphosis is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. This study aimed to determine whether hyperkyphosis (Cobb's angle) and upper extremity tasks were independently associated with the 6-min walk test (6MWT) in community-dwelling older adults with hyperkyphosis.


In this cross-sectional study, we studied 71 women and 28 men aged 60-87 from the study of hyperkyphosis, exercise, and function trial (SHEAF) who had kyphosis, 3 timed upper extremity tasks and the 6MWT assessed at their baseline visit. We used standing lateral spine radiographs and a standardized protocol for thoracic kyphosis (T4-T12) to measure Cobb angle of kyphosis. In addition, 3 activity of daily living (ADL) extremity tests (putting on and removing a laboratory coat, picking up a penny from the floor, and lifting a 7-lb. book to a shelf) were used.


The mean ± SD age was 70.1 ± 6.1 years. The mean ± SD Cobb angle of kyphosis was 57.4 ± 12.5 degrees. On average ± SD, the participants walked 504.8 ± 84.2 m in 6 min and took 2.4 ± 2.2 prescription medications. The mean ± SD height was 164.7 ± 8.5 cm, weight was 68.7 ± 13.1 kg, and BMI was 25.2 ± 4.0 kg/m2. Multivariate regression revealed that age, height, upper extremity book lift task, and the number of prescribed medications were significant predictors of performance on the 6MWT (p < 0.05).


While kyphosis was not associated with the 6MWT, timed tests of upper extremity function indicated that upper body dynamics can affect walking performance. In addition, sociodemographic factors and the number of prescribed medications were significant contributing factors to the 6MWT in older adults with mild to moderate hyperkyphosis. These results illustrate multifactorial influences on physical performance and the need for an integrated and targeted approach in helping older hyperkyphotic adults maintain healthy physical functioning as they age.

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