Counteract white-coat kyphosis

What is white-coat kyphosis?

You wear a white coat with big pockets full of pocket guides, pens, and patient lists, a stethoscope hangs around your neck… and your shoulders are perpetually slouched, head jutting forward. Friends jokingly call you “Grandma.” You’re suffering from a clear case of White-Coat Kyphosis.

How does white-coat kyphosis affect my anatomy?

Due to the body’s chronic misalignment (e.g. rounded shoulders, increased flexion of the thoracic spine, forward head), the muscles of your anterior chest wall (e.g. pectoralis major) become chronically short and contracted, while the muscles of your upper back (e.g. erector spinae) become elongated and weak.

What can I do to counteract its effects?

  • The yoga Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
    • Stretches the tight anterior thoracoappendicular muscles and strengthens the weak thoracic extensor muscles to add breadth and expansion to the anterior chest
  • How-to (courtesy of
    • Lie prone on the floor, with your hands placed flat on the floor, directly under your shoulders, elbows hugged toward your sides.
    • Elongate through your thighs & legs, pressing the dorsum of your feet into the floor
    • Inhale, and begin to straighten your elbows, lifting your chest off the floor. Keep your hips and lower extremities on the ground.
    • On an inhalation, straighten your arms to lift your chest off the floor, going only to the height at which you can maintain a connection through your pubis to your legs. Press the tailbone toward the pubis and lift the pubis toward the navel. Narrow the hip points. Firm but don’t harden the buttocks.
    • Firm the shoulder blades against the back, puffing the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Distribute the backbend evenly throughout the entire spine.
    • Hold the pose anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily.
    • Release back to the floor with an exhalation.
  • Perform 3 sets on your bedroom floor, in the student lounge, or on break in the resident’s room.
  • And remember to breathe!

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