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Yoga Exercises for a Hunched Back (Hyperkyphosis)
As we get older, age-related declines in posture begin to set in. For many people, what started out as a mild case of bad posture when they were younger, slowly begins to develop into a hunched back and shoulders, which are the precursors of a dowager's hump, a.k.a. hyperkyphosis.
As we have written about elsewhere, hunched back or dowager’s hump is one of the most overlooked age-related problems in today’s society. If the condition is allowed to progress into the full-fledged hyperkyphosis of a dowager’s hump, it causes numerous health issues. The hunched back compresses the rib cage, and as a result, many people with hyperkyphosis suffer from shortness of breath and other breathing issues.
People with dowager’s hump are more likely to suffer fractures; the more hunched the back, the greater the risk. Many develop chronic shortness of breath, which in turn is linked to numerous health issues, including increased anxiety and depression, reduced happiness, increased risk of cardiovascular or lung disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Not surprisingly, studies of elderly in nursing homes with the seriously hunched back of dowager’s hump have found that people with advanced hyperkyphosis tend to die earlier than their peers.
The Stages of Hyperkyphosis or Dowager’s Hump
Generally speaking, the hunched back of dowager hump develops in stages, and the earlier you take step to improve or reverse dowager’s hump, the greater the results. The early stages of hyperkyphosis appear as a forward head posture, in which the head moves forward of the gravitational center line of the body. As the head moves forward, the shoulders typically begin to get hunched as well.
At this stage the hunched back of hyperkyphosis can be fairly easily improved or even reversed. Once the condition grows into the hunched back of a full-fledged dowager’s hump, it becomes more difficult to work with, and for best results, you’d be advised to work with a professional movement therapist, physical therapist, or yoga therapist.
Best Treatments to Improve or Reverse a Hunched Back
There are currently no medical treatments for hyperkyphosis per se. However, as we have reported elsewhere, a recent pilot study shows that yoga for hyperkyphosis shows considerable promise as a therapy for improving dowager’s hump.
According to yoga therapist Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D., co-founder of the Healthy Back, Healthy Body program, a yoga therapy program for hyperkyphosis should contain several components. It must strengthen weak core muscles, open and realign the heart and chest area to improve and reverse the hunched back and rounded shoulders, and at the same time restore alignment by building greater awareness of how the person holds their body.
Particularly useful to reverse dowager’s hump are yoga poses that target the muscles and joints most affected by hyperkyphosis, including shoulders, spinal erectors, abdominals, and neck. As part of the Healthy Back, Healthy Body program, Terry Smith, Ph.D. and Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D. have created a downloadable series of yoga practices, which help restore strength and fluidity to the spine, while opening the heart area and reversing or improving the hunched back of hyperkyphosis.
The 3-part series of exercises from the Healthy Back, Healthy Body series is designed to improve and even reverse the early stages of dowager's hump. The program consists of three 20-min. download yoga practices to reverse hyperkyphosis to be delivered weekly. The sequences include:
Week 1. Heart Opening. A heart and chest-opening sequence to improve posture and reverse forward head posture and the hunched back and shoulders of hyperkyphosis or early-stage dowager's hump.
Week 2. Core Integration. A core integration sequence, which lays the foundation for better posture by building a strong foundation of core posture support and restoring proper posture alignment.
Week 3. Back Strengthening for Posture Support. A back strengthening sequence to strengthens the main posture support muscles of the back in order to improve the hunched back of hyperkyphosis or dowager's hump.