How Clinical Somatics can Alleviate and Correct Postural Kyphosis
Many trainers and physical therapists teach exercises that strengthen the back and shoulder muscles in order to attempt to correct kyphosis. These exercises simply teach the back and shoulder muscles to stay tight, pulling the head, shoulders, and upper back into an upright position. While this might seem like a logical approach, the end result is that you have chronically contracted muscles on both your front and back.
Stretching is also typically not effective for kyphosis. Stretching manually lengthens muscles at a structural level rather than a functional level. In other words, stretching simply pulls on muscle fibers, temporarily lengthening them. Usually within just a few hours, muscle fibers will begin to return to their contracted state.
Neither stretching nor strengthening effectively addresses the underlying cause of postural kyphosis: the learned, involuntary muscular contraction of the chest and abdominal muscles.
The most effective way to retrain the nervous system to release involuntary muscular contraction is with a movement technique called pandiculation. Pandiculation contracts and releases muscles in such a way that accurate biofeedback is sent to the brain, naturally resetting the alpha-gamma loop, a feedback loop which controls the resting level of contraction in muscles.
Pandiculation is one of the techniques used in Clinical Somatic Education, a method of neuromuscular education developed by Thomas Hanna. Pandiculation is very slow, gentle, and therapeutic. It can be done hands-on with a certified educator, or on your own at home in the form of self-care exercises.
If you’re interested in learning Clinical Somatics exercises, a great place to start is the Level One Course.