Kyphosis is the natural curve of the thoracic spine.  The abnormal excessive anterior curvature of the thoracic spine (think rounded upper back) is referred to hyperkyphosis, acquired or excessive kyphosis.  Excessive kyphosis can lead to osteoporosis, headaches, shoulder impingement, neck pain, impaired breathing, impaired digestion, intrathoracic stomach and impaired heart and lung function.  It can also lead to gastric ptosis (lengthening of the stomach).  Contrary to popular belief the stomach is not the size of your fist, it’s much larger.  The fundus (top) of the stomach starts between the fifth and sixth rib on the left side and the antrum (lower portion) is about level with midpoint between L2 and L3 (the second and third lumbar vertebra).

This is an X-ray of my stomach with contrast die to make the stomach stand out.

This is an X-ray of my stomach with contrast die to make the stomach stand out.

With Ptosis, the stomach can descend all the way into the pelvic cavity (see the black line on the photo below) and lose its tone and function.  Ptosis is different than prolapse in that with ptosis the top of the stomach stays near the diaphragm, but the lower part of the stomach descends toward or into the pelvic area.

ptosis of the stomach

ptosis of the stomach

Symptoms of gastric ptosis may include: flatulence, heaviness after meals, difficulty sleeping on stomach, need to loosen the belt while eating, reflux, headaches after a large meal, rib and vertebral pain around T6, belching, and strong hunger when eating.

Radiography may reveal a very long stomach that extends all the way to the pubis!  See an image of stomach ptosis (image a) on this page {click}.  You can also see the small intestines (image b) and large (image c) intestines prolapsed into the pelvic area. Even though these images are from someone with Ehlers-danlos syndrome, a group of disorders that affect connective tissues, they demonstrate prolapses and ptosis very clearly.

How alignment affects the stomach:

Slouching sucks for your stomach!

Slouching sucks for your stomach!

“Acquired kyphosis (exaggeration of the normal curve of the thoracic spine) can also contribute to gastric ptosis, in a manner analogous to that of a tie which moves down as you lean forward,”- Jean-Pierre Barral D.O.

Another factor may be a retroverted uterus.  (Side note: I’m starting to suspect that a posteriorly tilted pelvis is the number one contributor to retroversions.) With a retroverted uterus, the small intestines descend into the space where the uterus should be, pulling the stomach down with it.  All of the organs are attached directly or indirectly to all the other organs and structures. The stomach is attached to the liver, spleen, duodenum, and diaphragm via ligaments, the diaphragm is attached to the rib cage, spine, and sternum. Alignment matters. For optimal function, internal organs need to be able to move with fluid and specific motions and slide and glide in relation to the surrounding tissue without restriction. They need mobility from external sources like from the motion the diaphragm creates with respiration, or from the motion of the beating heart. They also need fluid motility which is their unique intrinsic movement. The motility is an active movement the trained hand can actually feel. The motion traces the path the organ takes during embryological development and migration. Combining a posteriorly tilted pelvis with excessive kyphosis of the thoracic spine is not fun for the organs. Your structural alignment affects blood and lymph flow as well as the internal pressure system.

Some non-alignment causes of gastric ptosis: abdominal scarring from surgery or trauma, inflammation from infection and not chewing your food and eating too quickly.  Not chewing your food, or eating too quickly a few times may not cause your stomach to lose tone, but if you eat like a petit cochon on a regular basis (petit cochon is a sweet French way of calling someone a little piggy), the stomach will lose its ability to bounce back.  The stomach needs tone to mechanically churn during digestion.  There’s also a chemical component to digestion that is affected by the stretch of the cholinergic fibers of the stomach.

Who Knew?

Who Knew?

If you have gastric ptosis Visceral Manipulation™ may help.  If you are in the Portland area you can make an appointment with me- click here.  I combine Restorative Exercise™ with Visceral Manipulation™ to address the structural and visceral causes of your digestive complaints.

So what to do to correct or prevent excessive kyphosis? As always it’s best to take a whole body approach. No one area works in isolation. So, it’s best to work one-to-one with a Nutritious Movement™ certified Restorative Exercise Specialist to get a full body evaluation and individualized program. That said, I often recommend the following homework for clients I work with.

NM-affiliate-ex-at-home2

 To make SKYPE appointment with me {click}.

Tidbit: “Penguins can shut down digestion by lowering the temperature inside their stomach to the point where the gastric juices are no longer active. The stomach becomes a kind of cooler to carry home the fish they’ve caught for their young. Penguins’ hunting grounds may be several days’ journey from the nest. Without this handy refrigerated mode, the swallowed fish would be completely digested by the time the adults get back— ― Mary Roach, Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

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