If you are someone who has developed a very rounded upper back, known officially as a ‘hyperkyphosis’ , then this article is for you.
Generally as people age, their upper back (thoracic spine) tends to become more rounded, giving them a hunched or stooped posture, and sending their heads forwards. This can be caused by a number of different factors, including postural strains, muscle weakness, disc damage and osteoporosis. This exaggerated rounding, as well causing localised stiffness, can then contribute to problems both in the neck and the lower back.
In the neck, a rounded upper back points the head more downwards, which then requires the neck to compensate by arching up and back. This change can cause strain and stiffness at the base of the neck and tightness of the muscles and joints at the top of the neck. Upper back rounding can also lead to an increase in the low back curve (lumbar lordosis) as it tries to maintain balance and stability after the overall natural alignment of the spine is changed. This can then predispose the joints of the lumbar spine to irritation and injury.
When I see patients with neck and back pain, a rounded upper back is often part of the problem. As well as using massage, stretching, and joint mobilisation to free up the movement of the spine, I always like to take a more long-term approach to the problem - enter the back roller. I have repeatedly found with patients with a rounded upper back that using a back roller for just a few minutes every day can help keep their upper backs mobile and pain-free and can also reduce the pressure on their necks and lower backs. I recently had a patient from East Grinstead with back pain who improved dramatically after a couple of treatments and daily use of a roller and some simple upper back exercises.
Using the roller is quite straightforward. Lying on your back, you need to position the roller underneath your thoracic spine and gently stretch backwards over it. The photo below should give you a general idea of the position. If you want to increase the stretch then you can hold your arms above your head to increase the leverage, and you can also lift your hips off the floor to vary the stretch.
To make sure all of the joints in the upper back are stretched, you should carefully reposition yourself over the roller, moving along the full length of the upper back, spending a few seconds in each position. This is a good 30 second video showing roughly what I mean
Although using the roller is relatively safe and straightforward, there are some important points to note.
Using the roller shouldn’t be painful. You shouldn’t experience anything more than mild discomfort, like a muscle stretch. If you are getting pain, then stop - it’s not the exercise for you.
This exercise is best-suited to people with rounded upper backs. If you have a flat upper back, or aren’t sure what shape of upper back you have, then don’t do it.
When using the roller, keep away from your neck and low back areas - these areas don’t need stretching by the roller. If you aren’t sure where to stretch, then get some advice before you start.
If you have a rounded back which you think might be leading to neck or low back pain then don’t suffer, call to book an appointment, for your problem at Osteostudio.