Kyphosis: Exercises, Stretches & Causes – Kayla Itsines

How to Improve Kyphosis

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How to Improve Kyphosis

Ladies, today I want to talk about kyphosis, and give you some simple back exercises that you can use to improve it.  

Before I explain what kyphosis is, I want you to think about this:

How many of you have gotten up in the morning, jumped in your car to drive to work, sat at a desk all day, driven home and sat yourself on the couch to watch television for a few hours, only to go to bed — and then do the same thing all over again the very next day? 

It sounds like a lot of sitting, doesn’t it? This pattern of behaviour is so common, especially with the increase of office-based jobs. 

Not only can a lack of exercise (and movement in general) lead to weight gain, it can also wreak havoc on your posture, even leading to problems like kyphosis.

Jump to:

What is kyphosis?

The definition of kyphosis is a curvature of the spine that leads to a hunching posture. While your upper back and shoulders have some curvature naturally, kyphotic posture is slightly more rounded in the upper spine. 

A person with kyphotic posture may have shoulders that roll forward and their chin and shoulders sit slightly further forward. In severe cases, it may also be referred to as ‘hunchback’, ‘Dowager’s hump’ or ‘rounded back’.

Kyphosis Definition

What causes kyphosis? 

Over time, there have been some massive changes to the way that we as humans live and move — specifically, we are becoming more and more sedentary. In simple terms, being sedentary means spending more time sitting and less time moving around. 

Thanks to this sedentary behaviour, our muscles may learn to become ‘lazy’. This ‘laziness’ in the muscles can come in many forms — including tightness, weakness or simply not activating when they are supposed to. 

Of course, our body still needs to be able to move, which is why it often tries to compensate by getting other muscles to work harder, in order to help ‘pick up the slack’. 

Types of kyphosis

To be clear, there are different types of kyphosis including congenital kyphosis, Scheuermann’s kyphosis and postural kyphosis. 

Congenital kyphosis

As the name suggests, congenital kyphosis is present at birth. If the spine’s development is disrupted, it can lead to two or more vertebrae fusing together and restricting movement.

Scheuermann’s kyphosis

Caused by an abnormality in the structure of the spine, Scheuermann’s kyphosis leads to forward curvature of the upper back. It usually affects the thoracic spine, causing vertebrae to wedge together. 

Thoracic Kyphosis

Postural kyphosis

This is the most common form of kyphosis, often associated with poor posture and slouching. 

Like all other postural abnormalities, kyphosis can be caused by muscular imbalances. In this case, it can include but is not limited to:

  • Tight pectoral (chest) muscles
  • Tight upper abdominal muscles
  • Weak upper trapezius (back) muscles
  • Weak rhomboids (the muscle between your shoulder blades). 

To determine the cause of kyphosis and to fix postural dysfunction, you need to look at two key things. Firstly, movement patterns and then exercise, as these two things go hand-in-hand. 

In relation to movement patterns, this means making sure that we move in the right way to engage muscles effectively and efficiently.

 For example, sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours a day in a slouched position versus maintaining an upright position throughout the day. 

Can kyphosis be fixed? 

It is a great strategy to start by analysing your day-to-day movement patterns to highlight any issues with your regular behaviour. 

As muscular imbalances are often a result of long-term movement patterns, it may take some time and effort to fix. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t notice improvements straight away. 
You can make adjustments to your daily habits by:

  • Becoming aware of your posture throughout the day.
  • Finding positions you are in regularly and trying to improve them — such as when you are sitting at your desk or driving. 

These might seem like small changes but they can make a difference, especially when coupled with regular exercise. 

Kyphosis exercises

From an exercise perspective, being proactive with specific exercise training can help you to improve and reduce the negative side effects of kyphosis and other postural dysfunctions. 

Activities such as static and dynamic stretching can help to relax muscles that are tight. Strengthening muscles that are weak or under-engaged is a great way to be proactive and to work towards a solution using exercise. 

I incorporate these types of exercises into my programs in the Sweat app, so whether you are working out from the home or the gym, there are exercises you can do. 

These are a few exercises you can do if you want to try to improve kyphotic posture: 

Seated row

A simple exercise you can do at home with an exercise band, the seated row helps to work your rhomboids (upper back muscles). 

  1. While seated on a yoga mat, extend both legs out in front of you. Wrap the recovery band around the bottom of your feet so that you are holding one end of the band in each hand with an overhand grip (palms facing the floor). Ensure the recovery band is in good condition and securely anchored around your feet to avoid injury. You could also press your feet against a sturdy object to help keep the band in place. Sit up tall and draw your shoulder blades down and back to push your chest out. Extend your arms in front of you. This is your starting position.
  2. Using the muscles in your shoulders and back, bend your elbows outwards and backwards to increase the tension in the band, ensuring that your elbows and forearms remain parallel to the floor. You should feel a small squeeze between your shoulder blades.
  3. Extend your elbows to return to the starting position. Repeat for 12 repetitions.

You can also do seated rows at the gym, using the seated row machine and the wide-grip attachment. 

Face pull

  1. Connect the rope attachment and set the cable pulley at the top of the pole.
  2. Turn to face the cable pulley and place both hands on the rope with an overhand grip (palms facing down). Standing one step away, plant your right foot on the floor and take a small step backward with your left foot into a split stance, ensuring that your feet are slightly further than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Lean back slightly and extend your elbows to bring the rope in front of your face. This is your starting position.
  4. Bend your elbows outwards and, using the muscles in your shoulders and back, bring the rope in towards your face until your hands are by your ears. Avoid “shrugging” your shoulders by squeezing your shoulder blades down and back.
  5.  Extend your elbows to return to the starting position. Repeat for 12 repetitions.

Whether you do back exercises at home or at the gym, there are lots of ways to improve your strength and to work on your posture!

Stretches for kyphosis

You can stretch your pectoral (chest) muscles yourself with the help of a foam roller or massage ball. The benefit of this method is that you can work at your own pace and control how much pressure you apply. You can then follow the foam rolling with some static stretches. 

  1. Position the foam roller horizontally in front of you. Lay down on your stomach with your left arm extended, allowing the foam roller to press into your left pectoral (chest) muscle.
  2. Reposition your lower body so that you are almost lying on your side. You may choose to use your right hand to determine the pressure.
  3. Hold this position until the pain or pressure has significantly reduced.
  4. Repeat on your right side.

Try these tips to improve kyphosis!

Good posture is so important for many reasons, and has a huge impact on your comfort levels day-to-day. 

If you are dealing with either Congenital or Scheuermann’s kyphosis, it’s best to consult with your doctor or health professional for an appropriate exercise program for this clinical condition. 

When you have good posture, your muscles and joints typically work better together, because they are more efficient. 

This means proper spinal function, better balance and an increased range of motion and flexibility. 

Having a good posture and range of motion can allow you to get more out of your workouts. Plus it can reduce your chance of an injury — so it’s a win-win!

Would you like to read more tips about improving your posture? Let me know in the comments!

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.

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