Kyphosis – the curved back

Paul Adamson
November 14, 2017

Kyphosis is an excessive curvature of the spine that eventually causes a hump-like appearance in the upper back, rounded shoulders and a forward position of the neck. There are various causes of a kyphotic back but as a massage therapist, I largely deal with that brought on by poor posture and bad movement patterns.

Because a lot of people never see themselves from the back, they don't always realise that they have this curve of the spine. What they are aware of is the pain that often comes with it. A combination of deep-tissue massage and exercises can counter the effects of poor posture.

As you spend time in a flexed (bent) position, your head begins to retain a forward position. This causes increased stress and weight on the spine and neck. The head should be directly over the body, creating a straight line from your shoulders to your ears.

By practising proper posture and engaging in exercises to strengthen the back and neck, you can lighten the load. This will give your spine a break.

Strong back muscles are better able to counteract the forward pull on the spine. That means exercises that strengthen the extensor muscles can decrease the angle of kyphosis.

Causes of kyphosis

  • An imbalance of muscles in the upper back and neck.
  • The pecs and the muscles in the back of the neck are shortened and tight.
  • The muscles at the back of the shoulders and upper back (traps, lats and rhomboids) are weakened and stretched.
  • The sternocleidomastoid muscle is tight and shortened causing the jaw to be protruded forwards.


Massage to the upper back and neck can reduce pain and tension in the tight muscles.

  • Massage and stretching techniques for the sternocleidomastoid muscle in the neck.
  • Strengthening exercises for the muscles at the back of the shoulders.

So if you have this kind of curvature of the back, stop doing so much work on the pecs (if you are) and concentrate instead on strengthening the back muscles. Go to see your wonderful deep-tissue massage therapist ;) and do some research on exercises that will help you improve your posture. Be particularly attentive to how you sit at your computer - is your head going forward? Are you slouching over the desk? Are you holding any particular posture for a long time? Take screen breaks, walk around, stretch – take up yoga.

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