Effects of posture on alignment and function

People with  good posture look strong and confident.  But good posture is not just about looking good.  Faulty posture can cause serious health problems.

The thoracic spine , also known as mid back or shoulder blade area, has direct influence on breathing, posture, spinal motion, and shoulder function.  This spinal region consists of twelve vertebrae, articulates with the rib cage, and is the primary curve of the spine also known as kyphosis.   Kyphosis is a flexion (forward bending) curve.  The normal amount of curvature in the mid back is between 20-30 degrees until age 30, then can increase gradually due to the combined effects of gravity and back muscle weakness, faulty postural habits, osteoporosis and compression fractures.

Kyphosis is normal and exists in the thoracic spine given the skeletal structure of the vertebral bodies and intervertebral discs.  It becomes a problem when it is excessive.
Hyperkyphosis, (increased kyphosis), or hunch back posture is generally considered anything greater than 40 degrees.  Kyphosis can be measured by plain xrays or by using a Debrunner kyphometer or flexicurve ruler.

Problems commonly associated with hyperkyphosis include but are not limited to the following: forward head posture, scapular protraction, rotator cuff impingment syndrome, reduced lumbar lordosis, and decreased standing height.  Increased flexed postures (or slouching) cause weakening of the back muscles and generate myofascial pain and dysfunction in addition to creating problems with breathing and digestion.   Some people are born with this spinal malalignment and others acquire it.  Either way, there are effective treatments to fight the progression of forward bent posture.

Physical performance and quality of life often decline as the spine gets more flexed.  Improved and early intervention strategies are critical in minimizing problems as age progresses.  Getting checked is easy and learning a few key exercises and postural corrections can make a big difference.  If you have bad posture, spinal deformity or mid back pain, get professional assessment from a doctor or physical therapist to advise you on how to take care of your back and manage this progressive condition.

 

kyphosis