Yoga Reverses Hunched Back Posture

Most people have heard about using yoga postures for back pain. A new study indicates that yoga might also help reverse the forward rounded posture of old age, a.k.a. hyperkyphosis.

If you are developing a bad posture with a forward curving of your spine as you age, you may be experiencing the early stages of hyperkyphosis. Hyperkyphosis is an exaggerated forward rounding of the upper back. Some rounding of the upper back is normal, however, with age, the rounding of the back sometimes becomes exaggerated into a seriously rounded back, a deformity also sometimes called Dowager’s hump or hunchback.

Hyperkyphosis is not just an unflattering condition, it creates a number of health issues as people get older. The forward posture causes the rib cage to constrict, creating shallow breathing, lung, and heart problems. Studies have shown that people with hyperkyphosis age faster and also have a higher mortality rate than people with a normal posture.

If you’re concerned that your spine is becoming increasingly rounded as you age, you might want to give yoga a try. According to a recent study, yoga may be an effective therapy for this common condition, even for seniors.

The study was conducted over a 6-month period by researchers at UCLA and published the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study included 168 women and men aged 60 and older with hyperkyphosis. Participants were randomly assigned to a treatment group, which attended hour-long yoga classes 3 days per week for 24 weeks and a control group, which attended a monthly luncheon seminar and received mailings.

After the end of the study period, the people in the yoga therapy group experienced a 4.4% improvement in flexicurve kyphosis angle and a 5% improvement in an index of kyphosis. The yoga therapy participants did not show significant improvements in other measures, however, including Debrunner kyphometer angle, measured physical performance, or self-assessed health-related quality of life.

Nonetheless, the decrease in flexicurve kyphosis angle in the yoga therapy group is significant, because it’s one of the first studies to show that hyperkyphosis can be treated and prevented by yoga postures for the back.  In addition, the researchers point out that study participants were older, with less flexible spines. Studies including younger individuals with more malleable spines and studies of longer duration may show even greater results.