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Understanding and Fixing Kyphosis In Teenagers

Understanding and Fixing Kyphosis In Teenagers

These days it’s not uncommon to see even teenagers with roundbacks. Medically called kyphosis, experts attribute poor computing posture, excess time hunched over playing video games, and ever heavier school backpacks as the main culprits.

In this article we’ll explore just what kyphosis is, and how to tackle it, especially for teenagers.

What is Kyphosis?

Kyphosis is characterized by an excessive forward curve of the thoracic spine. It’s also called “roundback” or “hunchback”.

The thoracic spine has a natural kyphosis between 20 to 45 degrees. However, going over this range becomes a postural issue and, once it reaches more than a 50-degree curve, it becomes known as “hyperkyphosis.”

Aside from an exaggerated thoracic curve, people with kyphosis also have abducted shoulder blades, rounded forward shoulders, and a forward-positioned head.

Who Is at Risk?

Though people of all ages can develop kyphosis, it is more common for adolescents, especially girls. People with the following conditions are also more susceptible.

  • Scheuermann’s disease
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Congenital defects
  • Old age and disk degeneration
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cancer
  • Not ergonomically optimized workspace

According to Dr Chris Quigley of the Charles Street Family Chiropractic, poor posture and bad movement patterns can also be blamed for an increased kyphotic angle.

Symptoms of Kyphosis 

  • Humped back
  • Rounded shoulders
  • Back pain
  • Stiff spine
  • Tight hamstrings

If kyphosis worsens, the patient can experience harsh pain, numb legs, loss of bladder control and sensation, and breathing difficulties. It can also be disfiguring and limit physical functions.

Treatment and Management

The treatment and management of kyphosis depend on a number of things – age, overall health, remaining growth years, severity of the curve, and type of kyphosis. For teenagers that are physically able, corrective exercises can be highly beneficial.

  • Postural Exercises – Certain exercises and stretches have been found to be helpful in correcting kyphosis depending on the severity. Certain back stretches for example can strengthen the back muscles and prevent bad posture from getting worse.
  • Bracing – Patients who are still in their growth years can use braces to help them correct their curved spine. The physician will indicate the brace type, daily timespan when it should be worn, and the frequency of adjustment.
  • Spinal Fusion – This is a surgical treatment that aims to reduce the curve, prevent progression, and alleviate back pain.

To start, parents should teach their teenagers to avoid rounding their backs and eliminating contributors to bad posture whenever possible:

  • Limit your teenager’s phone time, especially playing games or using social media where their necks are often bent to look at the screen.
  • Encourage your kids to sit with a straight back, and never hunched over.
  • Educate your kids on keeping their backpacks light and how to wear them properly.

Both stretching and strengthening exercises have been found to improve thoracic kyphosis.

Here are a couple of exercises that are very effective in countering kyphosis:

  • I-Y-T Raises – In a recent study by the American Council on Exercise, I-Y-T raises generate the most activity in the lower trapezius. These are the muscles that are responsible for bringing your shoulder blades back down to resume proper posture, 
  • Chin Tucks – Chin tucks are especially effective to stretch the muscles that tighten with kyphosis. While sitting or standing, just look straight ahead, chin parallel to the floor. Exhaling slowly, lightly tuck your chin toward your chest. Then, while inhaling, lift your chin to return to the original position. Repeat several times.

Addressing the Issue Now

Bad posture only gets worse with time, so as parents, it’s important to address any alignment or postural issues in our children sooner rather than later.

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