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Pectus Excavatum Exercise Program

Poor posture often contributes to the sunken chest appearance common with pectus excavatum. The typical pectus posture includes forward sloping shoulders and a belly that sticks out. A mild pectus may appear to be severe simply because of poor posture.

Purpose: The purpose of the exercise program is to develop a “military” posture with shoulders pulled back and the back in straight alignment.

Technique: Your child will need your encouragement. To be successful, this exercise program requires the cooperation of both the child and the parent. At the beginning of the exercise program, the best way to motivate your child is to set up a regular routine and watch your child while he/she exercises, or do the exercises with your child. Ask your child to stand in front of the mirror and show how improving posture improves the appearance of the chest.

Exercise #1: Back Straightening Exercise Do this exercise 25 times each morning and evening. The goal of this exercise is to straighten the back and pull the shoulders back.

  1. Hands are placed behind the head and fingers interlocked.
  2. The elbows are pulled back as much as possible and the head and neck needs to remain straight. This posture causes the chest to fill out in front.
  3. Bend from the hips, forward and down, to a horizontal position. This position is held for 2-3 seconds. It is very important that the elbows, head, and neck remain straight during the exercise.

Exercise #2: Strengthening the Chest and Back Muscles

  1. Do 25 push-ups each day.
  2. Another exercise to strengthen the chest muscles:
    • Lie with your back on the floor and with arms stretched out on each side. 
    • Place small weights in each hand.
    • Keeping arms straight, bring them together over the chest.
    • Do this exercise 25 times each day.

Exercise #3: Chest Expansion – Deep Breathing with Breath Holding: Do this exercise in the morning and evening.

  1. Stand up straight with the shoulders pulled back. Breathe in as deeply as possible and hold your breath for 10 seconds.
  2. Repeat 20 times.


  • Total exercise time should be no more than 10 minutes.
  • Your child should do these exercises immediately upon getting out of bed in the morning and before going to bed in the evening.
  • During the day your child should be active and do aerobic activities.
  • Motivation and monitoring are very important. Taking an interest in your child’s activity will motivate him/her and will also build good communication. It is also vital to monitor and encourage your child during exercise on a regular basis, otherwise he/she could lose interest.
  • This exercise program will not cure a severe pectus excavatum; however, it will help to correct poor posture, prevent progression of a mild pectus excavatum, make surgical correction easier and help prevent recurrence after bar removal.
  • Please ask your child’s nurse if you have any questions regarding this exercise program.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 02/2009