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Pectus Excavatum Exercises

 

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Question: Are there exercises to help correct pectus excavatum?

Answer: A number of people have written to me stating that exercise has helped their pectus excavatum and I do think for some people that is definitely possible. On a personal front, I have been working with a relative who has PE and he had about a 20% improvement in his dent from an individualized yoga, back roller and exercise routine. To develop his PE therapy routine, we took printouts of the web sites below, especially focusing on Exercise therapy in the correction of pectus excavatum (pdf article page 10) and worked with a local physical therapist and a yoga therapist to develop a set of specialized exercises to loosen up his pectoral muscles and expand his chest. Besides showing some cosmetic improvement, the therapy also helped his breathing quite a bit, which in turn has helped him do better in sports. Unfortunately, he didn't keep up the exercises and he lost the ground he had gained with the improvements, but for me it did show that it is possible to improve PE to at least some degree from exercise alone.

Interesting Links for Exercise and PE:

Recommended Articles:

Exercise therapy in the correction of pectus excavatum from the Journal of Paediatric Respirology and Critical Care. - This is a highly recommended article on pectus correction written by a physical therapist. You have to download Adobe reader to view it as it is in pdf format. The PE article starts on page 10.

Sydney A. Haje, MD web site - before and after pictures of people with PE after nonsurgical treatment using bracing and exercise therapy. I think Dr. Haje is onto something.

Improved Chest Expansion in Idiopathic Scoliosis After Intensive, Multiple-Modality, Nonsurgical Treatment in an Adult - this article has pictures that prove you really can expand your chest with the right exercises. See the before and after pictures here. From Chest. 2001;120:672-674. 2001 American College of Chest Physicians

Yoga Increases Chest Wall Expansion and Lung Volumes - Chanavirut R, Khaidjapho K, Jaree P, and Pongnaratorn P Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Associated Medical Sciences, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen 40002, Thailand

One thing I have noticed is that the people I know with pectus excavatum or a rib deformity do have poor posture with rounded shoulders and/or abnormally tight chest muscles. I used to get broken blood vessels across my chest that looked like tiny stretch marks or a rash. I realize now they were broken blood vessels from the muscles being pulled too tightly across my chest. They went away when I took up yoga to stretch out my chest muscles.

Many people with PE also have a pot bellied appearance, even though they are often not overweight and may often be thin. I suspect this may be because the muscles between the chest and abdomen are out of balance in PE, with overly tight chest muscles pulling and stretching the abdominal muscles, which over time makes them weak and unable to hold their normal shape.

In my antique medical books, the doctors often thought pectus excavatum may be caused in part by poor posture and/or soft bones, i.e. if you sit slumped over long enough your bones will eventually take on that shape, especially if your bones were soft and malleable to begin with.

If you think bones can't become malformed through pressure, read up on how Chinese women used to bind their feet to keep them abnormally small and pointed. Girls as young as three would have their toes broken and feet bound to keep them tiny - less than four inches even at adulthood.

from the website for the The Museum of the City of San Francisco

So can proper posture and yoga to balance out chest muscles help existing pectus excavatum or prevent it from getting worse in some people? I don't know for sure, since there are no studies on the subject. There are, however, many anecdotal reports on the Internet of people who felt that exercises did help their PE.

Since eating healthy, exercising, yoga and good posture are generally healthy, low risk, inexpensive things to do anyway, as long as your doctor gives you approval to do these types of exercises, they probably won't hurt you and they may help. Regardless of whether or not you have pectus excavatum, if your chest muscles are overly tight, they can make put pressure on you rib cage, making it harder to breath and making you more inclined to develop repetitive stress injuries from unbalanced muscles and trapped nerves.

If you have both PE and scoliosis, Back Care Basics is a good book to get because it has a information on exercises for rounded shoulders, a common condition that I think contributes to PE and a chapter just on yoga poses for scoliosis, which is hard to find. For more information on how this book helped my scoliosis, see my section on Scoliosis Exercises, Yoga Poses, Books and Tips. My favorite exercise is one where I lay over folded blankets to stretch out the pectoral muscles.

Books and websites on the the Alexander Technique are also a good source for posture improvement information.

The book I own with the most information on pectus excavatum, enlarged foreheads and other signs of rickets is Let's Have Healthy Children by Adelle Davis. Miss Davis was a nutritionist who wrote at length in this book on the signs of rickets in children and how these signs of rickets were often ignored by doctors.

 

 

 

For more information, see my main page on Pectus Excavatum and my FAQ About PE

 

Related sections of interest:

Links to Diet in Connective Tissue Disorders.

Genes may not be the only cause of Marfan Syndrome

Diet Help for EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome)

Pectus Excavatum Causes, FAQ, and Exercises

Could Hyaluronic Acid Help with Aging or Connective Tissue Disorders?

Zinc Deficiency Symptoms

 

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