So i haven't posted on here for a long time.
I really really struggled with upper back pain due to thoracic hyperkyphosis for about 18 months to 2 years and the pain is much improved now -not completely gone of course but nothing like it was. I think my spine is actually a little straighter too. So I thought I would post on here about my experience and what I did that helped me. I make no guarantees that it will be the same for anyone else. My kyphosis wasn't bad enough to need surgery apparently (even though it was pretty kyphotic -they never gave an angle but I reckon maybe 70 degrees or so).
Nothing I ever did helped, I used to trawl youtube looking for videos on how to straighten kyphosis and exercises to help with back pain. Most of these videos were really quite unhelpful -they generally featured some yoga instructor with an incredibly straight spine, talking about how he/she gets really hunched over after sitting in front of a computer all day. At that point I couldn't even imagine sitting in front of a computer for even 5 minutes, let alone all day. When the pain was at its worst, I used to eat my dinner quickly (10 mins) then have to go an lie down because the pain got so bad. I used to study lying on the sofa. I was referred to orthopaedics by my GP and they did x-rays and MRI and I begged them to do something about it but they said it wasn't a significant enough curve, it was a very destructive surgery and there was no guarantee it would work. They told me I needed to go to the gym and strengthen the muscles. I had previously seen physios who told me that my back muscles and core muscles were very strong. I told them this and they said, "well you need to make them stronger then". I had already been to umpteen physics, osteopaths and chiropractors who didn't help at all. I asked him about whether I could change the shape of my spine with exercises and he said "maybe a bit - it depends how plastic your spine is".
I decided to just try exercising really hard with the goal of straightening my spine completely (even though I knew this wasn't possible ) and strengthening my back muscles as much as possible. Didn't notice any change for a few weeks and then I noticed that my pain was decreasing and I was having to use less co-codamol. I did this by using my knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics (this is very important) to create an exercise program that I did daily/every other day to improve the flexibility and strength of my spine. I think it has straightened by spine to a certain extent too. This is probably because it corrected the postural element of the curve, but I don't know. I remember I used to hate those mirrors in the changing room that showed you in profile because I could see how curved my spine was, but now I don't mind them so much.
Like I said, this is just what I did, so take it at your own pace. If this stuff makes your back really sore/hurts when you're doing it then it's probably not helping. It used to make me a bit achey to start with but not too bad.
Ok, so the exercises:
- cross trainer for a few minutes to loosen your spine up. Try to move your shoulders and hips to get your spine moving -even if you look a bit silly.
- get a gym mat and gym ball and kneel down but put your arms up on the ball and do some breathing exercises -I got the idea from the schroth book which may be worth a read but bear in mind it's very technical so unless you know a lot about anatomy you might not understand it. You can look up chest stretching exercises on youtube and try and get into a really good deep stretch for your pec muscles. At the same time as doing this, try and contract your back muscles intermittently to pull your shoulders back.
- doorway stretches to further stretch the chest.
- lie on your back and bend your knees and then let them drop to the ground on your left. Lift them up again and let them drop to your right side. Repeat this several times for a couple of minutes.
- psoas and quads streches - look this up on youtube
- side to side bends, slowly, for improving lumbar spinal mobility.
- Trapezius strengthening exercises - such as rows.
This one is good because you can get some rotation of the spine in as well if you do a big enough movement - which is good for spinal mobility. - Abs exercises -crunches etc (avoid sit ups)
- Glutes strengthening exercises
- Try to strenthen your neck flexors (something like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sYr50nqyns )
-AVOID bench press completely because this will shorten you pecs, rounding your thoracic spine further -this will lead to pain. Avoid all chest strengthening exercises altogether. Avoid exercises that work the lower back too much as well.
Stuff to do at home:
- Lie with your thoracic spine on the arm of the sofa and bring your arms (keeping them straight) back behind your head, keeping your abs and neck contracted. Then take some deep breaths in and out for a bit. You might hear/feel some clicks and pops as your thoracic spine extends. Try and do this a few times and hold the position whilst breathing to allow the spine to mobilise more deeply into extension. If you want to try and extend your spine further, bring your arms up and over your head more forcefully whilst keeping your abs and neck contracted to try and force the thoracic spine into extension. I would be very cautious with this though because you might injure yourself if your spine is in a bad way.
-The above is quite similar to using a foam roller/exercise ball to mobilise your spine - you can do this instead for a gentler exercise.
Sorry if these descriptions are not the best. If you don't understand them just say and I can clarify them. I think the key is to stretch your chest (which will be very tight from the kyphosis), strengthen up your back muscles and abs, and get your spine moving more. And do it every day and commit to it.