Physical therapy is an important and useful treatment option for kyphosis. It's especially useful for cases of postural kyphosis because a physical therapist can help you learn how to correct your posture and strengthen your spinal muscles. However, physical therapy may also be recommended for patients with structural kyphosis, including Scheuermann's kyphosis and kyphosis caused by spinal fractures.
Poor posture can lead to kyphosis, but there is encouraging news: It's usually possible to correct the spinal curve…with a bit of work on the patient's part. This is where a physical therapist comes in. For most people with postural kyphosis, bad posture feels right, so they need to re-learn how to sit, stand, and move.
A physical therapist will be able to teach patients how to consciously improve their posture; he or she will help you learn what good posture feels like. A physical therapist can also help you strengthen your spinal muscles, or what doctors call your paravertebral muscles: the muscles that attach to your spine and support it. Oftentimes in postural kyphosis, these muscles aren't doing their job very well. A physical therapist will teach you exercises and stretches to work on these crucial muscles. Once they start to support the spine better, you'll be less likely to have poor posture. Strengthening your spinal muscles may help reduce your pain, too, because the muscles won't be overworked.
Physical Therapy for Scheuermann's Kyphosis
Physical therapy is often used at the same time as bracing. Because the brace supports so much of the spine, some believe that wearing the brace can weaken the muscles. To avoid this, you may have to go to physical therapy. Otherwise, when the brace comes off, the muscles may not be able to support the spine very well, and the spine may still curve too much.
The physical therapist will also help you with your flexibility and range of motion (how well your joints move). Many patients with Scheuermann's kyphosis also have very tight hamstring muscles (muscles on the back of your upper leg). Physical therapy can help alleviate those tight muscles, too, as you work on increasing the flexibility of the hamstrings.
Physical Therapy for Kyphosis Caused by Spinal Fractures
Physical therapy won't correct the kyphotic curve caused by spinal fractures, but to prevent more fractures, it may be useful for you to learn good (or better) posture. A physical therapist can also help you strengthen your spinal muscles so that your spine is better supported—taking some of the weight and pressure off your vertebrae.
A physical therapist can also help you learn safe exercises for kyphosis. Exercise is important to bone health, so a PT can work with you to develop an exercise plan that may involve weight-bearing exercises (such as walking or tennis) and strengthening exercises (such as weight lifting). The exercise plan will be created just for you, taking into account your bone health, health history, and physical abilities.