Kyphosis is an abnormal rounding of the thoracic spine, the part of the spine that connects to the ribcage. It can be caused by arthritis, injury, osteoporosis, or it can be congenital. For types that don’t need surgery, such as postural kyphosis, exercise can treat the curvature and relieve pain. A qualified physical therapist can design a regimen of effective exercises for kyphosis, often including Pilates, yoga, and other flexibility and strengthening moves. Before beginning any exercise program, it is wise to seek clearance from a medical professional so injury does not aggravate or worsen any condition.
Postural kyphosis results from contracting the back and shoulder muscles over time in a forward rounded position. People who hunch over their desks for long periods of time or exhibit poor overall posture can develop kyphosis. Pilates is an effective set of exercises for kyphosis caused by poor posture, since it strengthens the core muscles that hold the body in alignment. The abdominals are highly engaged, reducing hyperlordosis, the inward curve of the lower back that sometimes accompanies postural kyphosis. In addition, stretching and strengthening the upper back and chest muscles releases tension and enables a more erect posture, lessening the hunched effect.
Yoga also has good exercises for kyphosis. Poses that open up the chest and release the shoulders allow them to drop back into their natural position, which postural kyphosis distorts by moving them apart. Tight chest muscles can easily be stretched by lying on a rolled-up blanket or towel with the blanket underneath the upper spine, and stretching out the arms to their full extension. Yoga’s deep and targeted breathing has calming effects, relieving the source of muscular tension in the body that can worsen postural problems. Yoga gently promotes strength, flexibility, and balance.
All the systems in the body can be affected by poor posture. Reduction of the spinal curvature makes breathing easier and improves heart function. Incorporating whole-body stretches into the program of exercises for kyphosis helps loosen up tight ligaments. Breathing exercises, relaxation, and posture awareness all help the patient control habits that led to the problem.
Prevention of postural problems that can lead to kyphosis is a matter of practicing good work habits and ergonomics. Sitting straight at a desk when working without leaning forward keeps the chest open and the spine straight. Getting up and walking around every 45 minutes to an hour helps stretch tight muscles. Posture correction must be continual, and exercises for kyphosis should be practiced regularly to correct the condition. With time and persistence, a straight spine can be achieved.