The Annals of Vertebral Subluxation Research published a study on October 26, 2017, documenting chiropractic helping improve lung function and improve quality of life in a series of patients. The patients in this study all had an increased mid-back curvature known as hyperkyphosis and sometimes referred to as a hump.
The middle part of the back, known as the thoracic or dorsal spine should have a normal “c” shaped curvature from front to back with the apex of that backward curvature being near the center of the middle back. This normal curvature is referred to a thoracic kyphosis. When that curvature increases, giving the person a hunched over look, that is referred to as a hyperkyphosis.
Hyperkyphosis in children is usually due to some underlying pathological, or developmental issue. It is more common in seniors as it is estimated that age-related hyperkyphosis affects 20 to 40 percent of the elderly population. The authors of the study point out that there is no consensus on an exact proper amount of curvature for the thoracic spine. However, it is accepted that a curvature of between 20 to 29 degrees from childhood till age 30 is within normal. An angle above 40 degrees in adolescence is considered to be hyperkyphosis. This curvature will normally increase with age.
This study followed three separate cases of patients who were totally symptom-free, but had a measurable hyperkyphosis of the mid back. Two men, ages 42 and 49, along with a 55-year-old woman were included in this study. Due to their hyperkyphosis, none of the three patients were able to have their upper thoracic spines make contact with the chiropractic table while they were laying on their backs.
In all three patients, the initial examinations and x-rays were, as the researchers stated, “…focused on the collection of objective information to assess neurological dysfunction and determine the presence of vertebral subluxation.” They went on to note that, “According to the Association of Chiropractic Colleges, a subluxation is defined as a ‘complex of functional and/or structural and/or pathological articular changes that compromise neural integrity and may influence organ system function and general health’.” Lung volumes were also measured on these patients as a baseline for comparison later.
Using a similar protocol on all three patients, specific forms of chiropractic care were done on these three individuals. Follow-up evaluations with x-rays were taken 10 weeks after the initiation of chiropractic care. Lung volumes were also measured again. One man and the one woman showed an increase in lung volume. The remaining man had traveled overseas and contracted pneumonia. Therefore his lung volume had not improved when tested. However, the study recorded that all three of the patients showed a reduction of their hyperkyphosis ranging from 12.1% to 22.7% improvement.
In their summation of the results, the researchers stated, “Reduction of the thoracic kyphosis angle was recorded in all patients with an average decrease of over 10 degrees. Increased lung function in both peak expiratory flow (PEF), and forced expiratory volume (FEV) were recorded along with improvements in SF-36 scores documenting improved quality of life.”