Feb 282014

Bad Posture leads to Thoracic Kyphosis – symptoms & remedies

I know that for many, losing weight is a primary reason for working out, but I would like to think that exercising is also for maintaining your health and prevention of disease!

During my classes, I always infuse proper technique with an emphasis on posture.

I don’t know about you but I’d like to be able to raise my hands above my head, wash my hair, pull a sweater over my head, and breathe properly in the years to come!!

So, here’s a little about thoracic kyphosis, how it can affect you and what to do about it. Also, prevention is key, so by doing these suggestions now you can admire your wonderful posture for years to come.

What is Excessive Thoracic Kyphosis?

Excessive thoracic kyphosis (ETK) is a disproportional forward rounding or curvature of the middle and upper back. As we round our spine during activities like sitting at our computer or using our handheld electronic devices, reading, making meals, driving etc. we are all affected by this extremely common musculoskeletal imbalance.

If your shoulders are rounding forward, your head jutting forward or your spine is rounding (akin to having a large fish on the end of a flexible fishing rod) then this is leading you to ETK or at the very least thoracic hyphosis.

Or perhaps you overpronate causing your feet to collapse inward causing the ankles to roll in and the legs to rotate toward the midline of your body, therefore the pelvis rotates forward – this causes the lower back to overarch and the middle/upper back to round forward so that the body stays balanced.

You can see the chain effect of your posture and how hip or shoulder etc. pain/problems can be caused from the feet or other body parts out of alignment.  I always love looking for the ROOT cause of problems and not the SYMPTOMS! (Pain medication is not going to fix this problem in the long run!!)

proper posture

Proper Posture

thoracic posture 2

Incorrect Posture – rounded shoulders, head forward

 How it Can affect you

Symptoms of ETK include:

  • Aches and pains
  • Breathing problems
  • Limited function of our arms, shoulders, neck
  • Impaired athletic performance
  • Gastrointestinal upsets
  • Increased mental stress

What can you do to prevent ETK or relieve current symptoms?

Remedies include:

  • Corrective exercises
  • Dietary changes
  • Breathing practices
  • Relaxation
  • Life Coaching

Corrective Exercises

Self myofascial release techniques are very effective for decreasing restrictions in the fascia and for improving posture. During Move Your Body’s Core Conditioning and Pilates classes we use tennis balls and foam rollers for myofascial release!

Tennis Balls on Upper Back – Promotes extension in the thoracic spine

Place each tennis ball on either side of the spine at the bottom of your shoulder blades with a pillow under your head for support. Bring your arms across your chest and hug yourself.  Feel the pressure of the tennis balls working to release the pressure (10-15 seconds), then move the balls to another spot and continue.


Think of how often your fingers and your biceps are flexed (think driving, typing, cooking etc.).  With these muscles shortened (flexed)  and not properly stretched (extended), you may overtime, not be able to fully extend your muscles in your arms therefore causing the forearms to pull the shoulders blades forward causing the rib cage to drop forward leading to thoracic kyphosis.

hand palm down stretch

Palms on Floor Stretch


Kneeling, place your palms face down on the floor with finger tips pointing towards your knees.  Press fingertips into the floor and feel the stretch in the wrist, elbows and shoulders as you lengthen your arms and pull your shoulder blades down on your back. Hold 30-60 seconds.

palms lifted stretch

Palms on Floor Stretch #2

As above, now lift your palms off the floor leaving your fingers extended on the floor and feel the stretch.  You can circle your thumbs both ways 10x then peel your hands off the floor.

Forearm Stretch – all of these exercises will stretch your forearms

palms up stretch

Make a fist and put the back of your fists together then put the back of your hands on the floor maintaining this position.  Place your thumbs on the floor and then flex and extend your fingers whilst keeping your arms extended.

 Adding these 3 simple exercises into your day can make a world of difference to your posture, and increase the flexibility in your shoulders and arms. Not doing them yourself, join the classes at Move Your Body Studio!

Dietary changes

Increase your consumption of vegetables, fruits, and organics to reduce the inflammation in your body. Take probiotics and/or enzymes to improve the health of your gastrointestinal tract. Please see the many blogs I have written on healthy eating.

Here is one dietary change that may work for you if you are a sweet freak like me!

Breathing and Relaxation Techniques

Most of us breath very shallowly so breathing does require some consciousness!  Diaphragmatic breathing helps to mobilize the ribcage, strengthen the diaphragm, supply blood to the organs, promote relaxation and decrease stress!!

Breathing problems can result from this rounded posture because the rib cage becomes restricted and interferes with the diaphragm’s ability to contract and relax.

Lie on your back with your hands on your rib cage and head supported if needed. Breath in and out through your nose focusing on expanding your ribs and pushing your ribs into your hands.  Hold your breath for 5 seconds, and then exhale slowly. Do 10-15 breaths daily.

Life Coaching Techniques

Mental stress can manifest as physical pain, breathing problems, dizziness, head/back aches, skin problems and gastrointestinal issues. Become conscious of any pain that you are feeling and if there is anything that is triggering it. From that point of consciousness, you can begin to rectify the stressors and put effective strategies into place. Become your own detective for what is happening in your life and how it is affecting you.

Need life coaching assistance, email info@moveyourbody.ca and talk with Tanya about a Healthy Life Plan.

In closing

So, applying these few simple exercises/techniques done on a regular basis will help to prevent improper posture and/or to alleviate any current pain that you may be experiencing in your neck, shoulders, arms, hips or perhaps any breathing issues or stress issues that you currently have (or don’t want!- prevention is KEY!)

arms up proper posture

proper posture allows for your arms to reach over your head

improper posture arms overhead

improper posture – rounded shoulders/head forward – arms cannot be lifted above head. Try it out and see for yourself!!

Happy Standing,




Excessive Thoracic Kyphosis by Justin Price MA, IDEA Fitness Journal Jan 2013

Move Your Body’s Core Conditioning and Pilates Classes, see www.moveyourbody.ca click calendar for class dates and times.

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