K is for Kyphosis

Kyphosis is also known as ‘round back’ or ‘hunchback’. The upper back, the thoracic region of the spine, is supposed to have a slight natural outward curve and this condition is where the area has excessive curvature.

School Of Pilates Posted Apr 28, 2015 Future Fit Training

The most common cause of kyphosis is ‘osteoporosis-related kyphosis’ in adults. This occurs in both men and women but is more common in women. Osteoporosis weakens the vertebra, with the front vertebra collapsing and losing its height and the back of the vertebra maintaining the original height. This gives the vertebra in the upper back a ‘wedge’ shape. As the front of the bone is crushed it results in an excessive kyphotic curve and forward stooped posture. In serious cases surgical repair is necessary.

Another type of kyphosis is ‘congenital’. This form of kyphosis is typical in young children due to malformation of the spine in the womb and often requires surgery to realign the spine and prevent progression.

Kyphosis can also be postural. For example, poor posture can result from leaning over a desk for long periods of time. It can cause the shortening of certain muscles and also lengthening of opposing muscles within the upper back, neck and lumbar region. Strengthening and mobilising exercises, along with development stretches, can help with this. For example:

  • Increase thoracic spinal mobility by performing the Spine Twist. Ensure to cue “sitting tall” or “standing tall”, “shoulders back and down” throughout the exercise when teaching this. Tip - if this exercise is performed sitting, offer your clients a yoga block or a rolled up towel to sit on to help them sit up straight.
  • Strengthen trapezius muscles by performing the Swan Dive (lower levels) and to further strengthen this muscle group while performing this type of exercise, have your arms down by your sides (palms up). Exhale as you raise the upper body off the floor but now try and continue to lift the arms higher than the back and squeeze the shoulder blades together. This variation is also known as ‘The Dart’.
  • Stretch pectoral and deltoid muscles by performing development chest and shoulder stretches such as standing tall. Clasp the hands together behind the back then forward flex the upper body (chest to thighs) with a slight bend in the knees, navel to spine and let the arms relax forward (still clasping).


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