HYPERKYPHOSIS is excessive (>40 degrees) curvature in the thoracic spine, or the section of middle 12 vertebrae, and is characterized by rounded shoulders and a forward head posture. Although 20-40 degrees of kyphosis are desirable for maintaining the healthy, functional “S” curve of the spine, excessive curvature can cause a myriad of issues including neck and back strain, headaches, jaw pain, shoulder dysfunction, carpal tunnel disorder, impaired breathing, TMJ, brain fog, lack of confidence, and more.
Much hyperkyphosis can be diminished to a healthy level through corrective exercise strategies that address muscle imbalances by strengthening up the long, underactive (inhibited) muscles and by loosening up the short, overactive muscles – in other words, shifting the neuromuscular patterns that are perpetuating the dysfunction. In most individuals with a hyperkyphotic spine, the muscles that need strengthening include the lower trapezius, serratus anterior, and rhomboids on the back side and the cervical flexors in the front. Conversely, the muscles that need to be loosened are the upper trapezius and levator scapulae on the back side and the pectorals in the front. Because these pairs are positioned diagonally across from each other when viewing the spine from the side, hyperkyphosis is often referred to as UPPER CROSSED SYNDROME.
With the above information in mind, can you notice these patterns in yourself? If so, your corrective exercise plan should include the following:
Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) of the chronically tight muscles
Lengthening (stretching) of the chronically tight muscles
Isolated Activation (neuromuscular strengthening) of the chronically loose muscles
Integration of these new patterns into full-body training exercises
A well-designed corrective exercise plan will, with time and dedication, correct Upper-Crossed Syndrome. With spinal change, the progress is segmental, meaning that small shifts build on each other week after week to lift each segment of the spine into a more supported position. Therefore you should not expect to see change happen overnight but rather to experience change through a steady weekly increase of flexibility and mobility, a decrease of stiffness and pain, and an increased sense of well-being. You deserve to feel great!
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