A forward rounding of the back is technically known as kyphosis, and the first step to getting rid of it is understanding what type you have — structural or postural.
Both types can result in limited mobility (specifically with overhead movements and neck rotation), suboptimal breathing, and, in some cases, pain and other complications. Where they differ is in their causes and remedies.
Structural kyphosis results from changes to the vertebrae caused by osteoporosis, disc degeneration, genetics, or other disorders. Addressing structural kyphosis may require a consultation with a pro — and, in extreme cases, surgery.
Postural kyphosis is often the result of how you move and carry yourself in life, as well as your general emotional well-being, says Christopher Johnson, PT, a physical therapist in Seattle. Sitting or standing hunched over for long periods of time, overtraining the chest muscles and front of the body, and a sedentary lifestyle are all factors. Postural kyphosis can often be improved with awareness and exercises like those here.
- Kneel in front of an ottoman or flat surface of similar height, with your hips slightly behind your knees.
- Holding a dowel in both hands, palms facing up, place your elbows on the ottoman, lining them up with your forehead. Your hands should line up with the top of your head.
- Exhale as you push your hips backward and bring the dowel behind your head and toward the base of your neck. Hold until you finish your exhale.
- Inhale as you return your hips, shoulders, and arms to the starting position.
- Repeat three to five times.
Attach a resistance band with handles to a secure surface at about seated chest height (or use a cable-pulley machine).
- Grasp the handles with palms facing each other.
- With arms outstretched, sit on a bench facing the band’s anchor point. There should be slight tension in the band before you begin the exercise.
- Pull the handles toward your body, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the end of the movement.
- Extend your arms to return the handles to their starting point.
- Repeat 12 times.