Kyphosis occurs when there is excessive curvature of the spine, eventually causing a hump-like appearance in the upper back.
Between 20 and 40 percent of elderly adults experience kyphosis. The greatest change in the thoracic curve occurs in women between the ages of 50 and 70.
Some of the causes of kyphosis include:
- degenerative changes
- compression fractures
- muscular weakness
- altered biomechanics
Dr. Nick Araza, a chiropractic wellness practitioner at Santa Barbara Family Chiropractic, says that he associates kyphosis with poor posture and bad movement patterns. He says that just 20 minutes of bad posture can cause negative changes to your spine.
As you spend time in a flexed (bent) position, your head begins to retain a forward position. This causes increased stress and weight on your spine and neck. The head should be directly over the body, creating a straight line from your shoulders to your ears.
By practicing proper posture and engaging in exercises to strengthen the back and neck, you can lighten the load. This will give your spine a break.
Exercise, combined with good posture and chiropractic care, may help improve your rounded upper back.
Researchers looked at the effect of spinal extension exercises on kyphosis. They found that strong back muscles are better able to counteract the forward pull on the spine. That means exercises that strengthen the extensor muscles can decrease the angle of kyphosis.
The same study found that after one year of exercise, the progress of kyphosis in women ages 50 to 59 was delayed compared to those who did not complete the extension exercises.
Araza recommends these five exercises to help prevent or improve a rounded upper back. Consistency is key. These exercises should be repeated a minimum of three to four times per week to see results over time.
Always consult a doctor before starting an exercise routine and be sure to listen to your body. If an exercise or stretch is causing increased pain, stop and seek help.
1. Mirror image
For this exercise, simply do the opposite movement of the posture that you’re trying to correct.
- Stand tall, against a wall if needed.
- Tuck your chin slightly and bring your head back directly over your shoulders.
- Feel as if you’re bringing your shoulder blades back and down. Hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Take a break if you begin to feel pain.
If it’s challenging to get your head to touch the wall while maintaining a chin tuck position, you can put a pillow behind you and press your head into the pillow.
2. Head retraction
This exercise is done lying on the floor and is great for the muscles of the neck that are often stretched out and weak.
- Pull your chin back toward the floor, as if you’re trying to make a double chin.
- Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
- Lying on your stomach, extend your hands in front of your head.
- Keeping your head in a neutral position, looking toward the floor, lift your arms, and legs up toward the ceiling.
- Feel as if you’re reaching far away from your body with your hands and feet. Hold for 3 seconds and repeat 10 times.
4. Life extension
The goal of this exercise is to stretch the tight muscles of the chest and strengthen the weak muscles of the back.
- Begin standing tall, knees soft, core engaged, chest upright, and shoulder blades back and down.
- Once you find yourself in an ideal posture, raise your arms up into a Y position with your thumbs pointed behind you.
- In this position, take two to three deep breaths, focusing on maintaining this posture on exhale.
5. Thoracic spine foam rolling
- Lie on the floor with a foam roller under you, across your mid back.
- Gently roll up and down on the foam roller, massaging the muscles of your back and thoracic spine.
You can try this with your arms extended over your head in the life extension position described above. Do this for at least 30 seconds to 1 minute.
By making small changes to take care of your posture today and prevent kyphosis, you can reap the health benefits for years to come. So, take a break from your phone, practice good posture, and work toward a greater quality of life.