One of the causes of this decrease in height is thoracic kyphosis, also known as a rounded upper back.
ThatIs it kyphosis?
Kyphosis occurs when there is excessive curvature of the spine, eventually causing a humpy appearance in the upper back.
Between 20 and 40% of older adults experience kyphosis.
The biggest change in the thoracic curve occurs in women between the ages of 50 and 70, but I’m noticing that younger people have excessive thoracic curvature.
Causes and treatment
Some of the generally known causes of kyphosis include:
- degenerative changes
- compression fractures
- muscular weakness
- altered biomechanics
The main causes of kyphosis are poor posture and ineffective movement patterns. This leads to muscle imbalances that further exacerbate the problem.
Having poor posture and skeletal misalignment, even for short periods of time during the day, causes negative changes in your central nervous system.
The length of the muscles at rest is damaged, some muscles remain in a shortened, partially contracted state, and others are overstretched and weakened. If the length of the muscle is not corrected, the connective tissue around the muscle hardens and permanently traps the muscle in place.
Over time, forward flexion can cause bulging and subluxation of the vertebrae.
The more time you spend in a flexed (bowed) position, your head begins to retain a forward position. This causes increased stress and weight on the spine and neck.
The head should be directly on the body, creating a straight line from the shoulders to the ears.
By practicing correct posture and performing exercises to strengthen your back and neck, you can lighten the load. This will give your spine a break.
Why is exercise important?
Exercise, combined with good posture and chiropractic care, can help improve the roundness of the upper back.
The 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 of the spine. That means that exercises that strengthen the extensor muscles can decrease the angle of kyphosis.
Exercises that can help:
I recommend these five exercises to help prevent or improve a rounded upper back. Consistency is key and these should be repeated a minimum of three to four times a week to see results over time.
Always consult a doctor before starting an exercise routine and be sure to listen to your body. If exercise or stretching increases pain, stop and get help.
1. Mirror image
For this exercise, simply do the opposite movement of the posture you are trying to correct.
- Stand tall, against a wall if necessary.
- Slightly bend your knees
- Move your chin slightly and bring your head back directly over your shoulders.
- Imagine that a small lead weight is attached to your tailbone, hanging between your legs, allowing you to feel gravity and where your center of mass is.
- Gently tuck your hips in so that your tailbone points downward.
- Feel as if you are bringing your shoulder blades back and down. Hold this position for 30 seconds to a minute. Take a break if you start to feel pain.
2. Head retraction
This exercise is performed lying on the floor and is ideal for neck muscles that are often stretched and weak.
- Pull your chin toward the floor, like you’re trying to pull a double chin.
- Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat five to ten times.
- Lying on your stomach, spread your hands in front of your head.
- Keeping your head in a neutral position, facing the floor, raise your arms and legs toward the ceiling.
- Feel as if you are stretching your hands and feet away from your body. Hold for three seconds and repeat 10 times.
4. Life extension
The goal of this exercise is to stretch tight chest muscles and strengthen weak back muscles.
- Begin to stand tall, with soft knees, core engaged, chest upright, and shoulder blades back and down.
- Once you are in an ideal posture, raise your arms to a Y position with your thumbs pointing back.
- In this position, take two or three deep breaths, concentrating on holding this pose as you exhale.
5. Foam roll of the thoracic spine
- Lie on the floor with a foam roller under you, in the middle of your back.
- Gently roll up and down on the foam roller, massaging the muscles of the back and thoracic spine.
Food to go!
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 towards a better quality of life.