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Kyphosis

Kyphosis is a postural syndrome of the upper back and neck where the shoulders appear rounded and the upper back hunched. We examine the causes and treatment options.

Serious Kyphosis where the spine is significantly deformed will require medical treatment. We focus on Kyphosis as a result of poor posture and muscle imbalances. This type of Kyphosis may be corrected with postural awareness and exercises.

What is Kyphosis?

Kyphosis is a postural syndrome of the upper back and neck. Typically the upper back appears curved with rounded shoulders, the scapula (shoulder blades) are protracted (positioned further away from the spine) and the chin pokes forwards rather than being tucked in.

This occurs in all sections of the population. In the sports world cyclists and baseball catchers are at risk as they have to hold postures for long periods as well as the amateur bodybuilder who over develops and tightens the pectoralis (chest) muscles neglecting the muscles in the upper back.

Cervical posture syndrome is sometimes also called upper crossed syndrome. This is due to the muscle imbalances which are present with this type of posture. For example, the pecs and posterior neck muscles are tight and the muscles of the upper back and deep neck flexors are weak. If you connect the two tight muscle groups and the two weakened muscle groups with two straight lines, they form a cross shape, giving the condition its name.

Symptoms

Kyphosis may contribute to the following symptoms as a result of the rounding of the upper spine.

  • A burning or aching sensation may be felt in the upper back and neck.
  • Pain is made worse by prolonged standing or sitting especially leaning forwards.
  • Pain eases with movement and is usually not present once active.

Causes

  • An imbalance of muscles in the upper back and neck.
  • The pectoralis major and minor muscles and the muscles in the back of the neck are shortened and tight.
  • The muscles at the back of the shoulders and upper back (trapezius, latissimus dorsi and rhomboids) are weakened and stretched.
  • In particular the sternocleidomastoid muscle is tight and shortened causing the jaw to be protruded forwards.

Treatment

  • Massage to the upper back and neck can reduce pain and tension in the tight muscles.
  • Massage and stretching techniques for the sternocleidomastoid muscle in the neck.
  • Strengthening exercises for the muscles at the back of the shoulders.

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