Kyphosis Awareness

The following post should be considered for general education and should not be a substitute for medical advice from a doctor or other medical professional. Instead, use it as a tool for awareness. The following information was inspired by a course presented by Carleen Lindsey, PT, MS, CGS, CEEAA at the APTA Conference in Washington D.C. on January 23, 2019.

What is kyphosis?

Kyphosis is an abnormal exaggeration of the outward curvature of the thoracic spine that results in a rounded upper back, or “hunchback.” It often clinically presents in combination with forward head, protracted shoulder girdle, and dysfunctional lumbar alignment.

What’s the problem?

An abnormal posture, such as kyphosis, can lead to some of the following physical issues:

  • Decreased bone density
  • Breathing problems
  • Difficulty with walking or a change in gait pattern
  • Increased pain
  • High risk for fall and fracture

What can therapy do to fix it?

  • Evaluate the patient, including full body assessment and complete medical history:
    • Range of motion, strength, and body alignment
  • Perform functional tests to determine where the problem is to plan appropriate treatment:
    • Gait speed
    • Sit to stand
    • Single leg stand
    • Functional reach test
    • Flex Curve: a tool that can be used to mark, measure, and record details about curvature of the spine
  • Implement a treatment plan, including the following exercises:
    • Wall Slide/Sit: to strengthen muscles and improve posture
      • “Sit” against the wall, feet about 1 shoe length from the wall
      • Slowly slide up and down the wall, maintaining good stomach, back, and leg posture
      • Hold “sitting” position for 30 seconds
    • Wall Arches: to straighten the upper back and minimize forward head posture
      • Stand one step away from the wall with feet straight ahead and knees over toes
      • Flatten stomach and back
      • Move both hands backward away from the wall, hold for 5 seconds
    • Back Stretch: to strengthen back and neck muscles
      • Sit upright in a sturdy chair, and place a towel roll or ball behind the tightest spot in midback
      • Tighten stomach, hold head up and look straight ahead
      • Place hands behind head with elbows out to the side
      • Lean backward against the towel roll or ball, hold for 5 seconds
    • Other areas of focus: lower extremity stretching and strengthening, breathing exercises, self-awareness and correction of posture

This is a whole body approach to correcting a common postural problem. Once assessed by a doctor and therapist, it is the responsibility of the patient to make a commitment to perform these simple exercises every day and correct their posture using a mirror in standing and sitting. Continue to carry out the exercises and other strategies to correct posture, minimize pain, and improve the quality of movement.


Leave a Comment