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Exercises to Reduce Kyphosis

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 07, 2020

Kyphosis is also known as “roundback” or “hunchback,” because it’s an excessive curve of the upper back that makes it look rounded or hunched. While a small curve in the upper back is natural, an extreme curve can be uncomfortable, painful, or make it difficult to breath. There are a number of exercises that can help reduce thoracic kyphosis, especially in cases where it’s caused by posture problems.

Exercises to reduce postural kyphosis focus on strengthening the muscles of the torso, especially those around the spine. The goal of these exercises is to help make healthy posture easier to maintain.

Exercises to Help Reduce Kyphosis

A certain amount of kyphosis, or spinal curvature, is important to keep your spine healthy. However, stretching and strengthening the muscles of your spine will help maintain a healthy amount of the curve while making it easier to maintain an upright posture. 

Horizontal Posture Check

This exercise helps you find a natural back position without excessive curvature of your upper back. 

Step 1: Lie flat on the ground with your legs stretched out flat. Place your hands on your stomach, just below your ribs. Let your shoulders relax towards the ground. 

Step 2: Slowly slide your heels up towards your body, bending your knees. Place your hands flat on the ground at your sides. Pay attention to your back. You should feel your entire back in contact with the ground, all the way to the top of your shoulders. You may feel a gentle stretch in your back if you have been experiencing kyphosis for a while. 

This position involves a natural, relaxed curve of the spine instead of an extreme curve. You can repeat this exercise whenever you want to remind yourself of how healthy posture feels. 

Arm Raises

This stretch helps engage the muscles of your shoulders to strengthen and stretch them.

Step 1: Stand with your arms at your sides and your palms facing forwards.  

Step 2: Raise your arms and bend them at the elbows so your upper arms are parallel to the ground and your palms face forwards, like you’re imitating a goalpost. Hold this position for five to ten seconds.

Step 3: Continue to raise your arms until they are fully extended upward, as high as you can reach, palms still facing forward. Hold this position for five to ten seconds, then lower your arms.  

Repeat this exercise ten times per set, up to three times daily.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

This exercise helps you reduce tension and strengthen the muscles of your upper back:

Step 1: Sit or stand with an upright posture and your shoulders pulled back. 

Step 2: Squeeze your shoulder blades together as tightly as you can and hold for five to ten seconds. Release and repeat.

You can repeat this exercise three to five times per set and complete two sets daily. 

Resistance Band Stretch.

If you want to add extra resistance to shoulder blade exercises, you can use a resistance band. Grasping each end of the resistance band in front of your body, stretch the band as far as you comfortably can with your arms parallel to the floor. Focus on using your shoulders for the stretch, especially your shoulder blades. Hold the stretch for five to ten seconds, then slowly release. You can repeat this exercise three to five times per set and do up to three sets daily. 

Push-Ups

Push-ups are one of the simplest bodyweight exercises to strengthen the muscles of the shoulders and back, along with the arms. 

Step 1: Lie flat on the floor on your stomach with your hands on the ground, just on either side of your shoulders. 

Step 2: Gently push your body up off the ground, with either your knees or your toes on the ground. Keep your back and legs as straight as possible. 

Step 3: Gently lower yourself back to the ground and repeat.  

If you don’t feel comfortable doing push-ups on the ground, you can also do modified pushups off of counters or the wall. Simply place your hands on the wall or edge of a counter and move your feet slightly away from the wall so you’re at an angle, then lower yourself to the wall.

Safety Considerations

As with all exercises and stretches, it’s important to take things slowly at first. You may only be able to complete a stretch or exercise once at first. You can build up to more repetitions or deeper stretches over time.  

If you cannot fully straighten your spine, or if your upper back feels “frozen,” your kyphosis may not be postural. If you feel any pain while trying to straighten your back fully, you should contact your physician. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Campbell Systematic Reviews: “PROTOCOL: Exercise interventions to improve back shape/posture, balance, falls and fear of falling in older adults with hyperkyphosis: A systematic review.”

Intermountain Healthcare: “Kyphosis.”

Journal of Physical Therapy Science: “Effect of the push-up exercise at different palmar width on muscle activities.”

Mayo Clinic: “Shoulder blade squeeze.”

Osteoporosis International: “Spinal extension exercises prevent natural progression of kyphosis.”

University of Maryland Medical Center: “Adult Kyphosis.”

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