Dowager’s hump, also known as ‘hyperkyphosis’ or ‘kyphosis’, is quite common among older adults, especially with the increased time spent hunched over electronic devices these days. The best way to improve a Dowager’s hump is by practicing proper posture throughout the day. However, there are also certain exercises that target your back and shoulders to strengthen weak muscles and return your neck to its upright position. Whether you’ve noticed the beginning phases of a Dowager’s hump or it’s already fully formed, start these exercises to treat and reverse it.
What is a ‘Dowager’s Hump’?
Dowager’s hump is a condition where the spine curves at an increased angle, causing a hump to form around the upper back or shoulders. It’s also usually accompanied by a forward head posture where your head is jutting forward. Dowager’s hump is estimated to affect two out of five people over the age of 55 and can negatively impact your quality of life. It can also affect your physical performance, mobility, lung capacity and more. It’s more common in women than in men, and many people with Dowager’s hump will experience intense headaches as well as neck and shoulder pain.
What Causes a Dowager’s Hump?
Dowager’s hump results from bad posture and chronic forward-leaning. In today’s world, we’re constantly hunched over our phones, laptops and other devices, and over time, a habit of poor posture can lead to an abnormal curve of the upper spine and mass of tissue at the lower part of the neck.
Aging also has something to do with it. From childhood until the age of 30, the angle of the spine changes due to the increased weight, and after you turn 40, the angle rapidly increases as the degenerative processes of aging begin. Age affects the ligaments, joints, muscles and connective tissues, all of which affect posture. With decreased spinal mobility, the ability to maintain good posture and stand up straight is reduced.
Dowager’s hump is more common in women since osteoporosis (weakening of the bones) is more common in women. With osteoporosis comes weaker spinal bones, which leads to a higher risk of Dowager’s hump. Spinal birth defects, vertebral fractures and degenerative disc disease can also lead to this condition.
Can a Dowager’s Hump Be Reversed?
Yes, don’t fret, a Dowager’s hump can be reversed. Early intervention and treatment is key to altering the course of the condition and can provide numerous health benefits. Regular spine-strengthening exercises and posture training can stop the development of Dowager’s hump and can reverse the severity of it in most cases.
7 Dowager’s Hump Exercises
1. Bird Dog
Start on your hands and knees, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Contracting your core, raise your left arm and reach it forward until it’s aligned with your torso, at the same time straighten your left leg out backward until it’s also aligned with your torso. Hold this position for two to three seconds and return to starting position on all fours. Repeat on the other side, then repeat the whole sequence 10 times.
2. Shoulder Squeezes
Sit or stand up tall with good posture, making sure your shoulders and jaw are relaxed. Draw your shoulder blades back, attempting to squeeze them together. Hold this position for three to five seconds, and repeat 10 times. Try to do this exercise multiple times per day as it helps strengthen your upper back and reminds you to practice good posture.
3. Cat Cow
Start on the floor in an all fours position with your wrists under your shoulders and hips stacked over your knees. Inhale and drop your stomach down as you look up. Exhale and arch your back as you drop your head down. Repeat this 10 times, one to two times per day. This helps improve the mobility of your upper back and helps maintain a neutral posture, improving the flexibility of the spine.
4. Chin Tucks
Place two fingers at the bottom of your chin, gently tucking your chin in and retracting your head backwards. Use your fingers to keep the chin tucked the entire time. You should feel like the back of your neck is lengthening. Hold the retracted position for 3 to 5 seconds, then relax your neck for a moment. Aim for two or three sets of 10 repetitions. This will activate and strengthen the front of the neck muscles.
5. Wall Angels
Stand with your back up against a wall, making sure your heels are touching the wall, as well as your back and head. Bring your arms up, with your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle (this should look like a football goal post). Slowly push your arms up overhead, keeping your forearms in contact with the wall. Bring them back to 90 degrees and repeat 10 times. This helps create strength and mobility in the upper back muscles, which will help normalize good posture over time.
6. Thoracic Spine Foam Rolling
With a yoga mat underneath you, lie on your back with your hands placed behind your head and a foam roller placed under your upper back. Slowly roll up and down, beginning at your mid back and rolling towards the top of your shoulders. Keep your core embraced and use your legs to do the rolling. This is a great way to loosen your upper back area.
7. Mid Fly Back Exercise
Stand or sit in a chair with your feet on the floor and your back straight. Hold an exercise band in both hands, holding your arms out in front of you with a little bit of slack in the band. Relax your shoulders and pull your arms out to the side, squeezing your shoulder blades. Slowly return to the middle and repeat 12 to 15 reps. This strengthens and stretches the muscles in your back, making it easier to keep your neck in alignment.
If you’re dealing with Dowager’s hump, use these exercises to treat and hopefully fully cure your Dowager’s hump!
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