How to reduce a hunched back through exercising

by Yin on June 23, 2009

in Posture

Due to occupational hazards, some people are developing a hunched back prematurely.  When we think of a hunched back, or a gradual forward bending body, we normally think of seniors at the age of 60 or above. But I am beginning to observe younger and younger people having a hunched back due to:

  • occupational hazards
  • wrong ergonomics- spending hours in a day hunched in front of a PC

You may find this to be true if you were to observe people around you. For instance, I know a lady who operates a home based dobby being very hunched- since she was in her early forties. Reason being is she spent hours and hours everyday ironing clothes.

Recently I’ve visited my regular hairsylist. I remembered the first time I know her, she was pregnant with her first child. Her girl is now schooling. Over the years, I’ve seen her back going more and more hunched- and she is only about 30 years old.

Causes of Hunched Back- Muscle Imbalance

Why our backs hunch forward? It is because of muscle imbalance. The chest (pectorial) muscles are stronger and used more often than the back muscles (trapezious).  Medically it is also known as kyphosis lordosis. Sometimes you can observe this phenomenon on men who are very into body building- they focus too much to develop muscular chest muscles and less emphasize on the back muscles- therefore, they may walk around in a slightly hunched posture.

I also noticed that tall people tend to have hunched back- especially amongst Asians when it is not common to be too tall. Tall people tend to have to lower themselves to talk most of the time to their families and loved ones. Especially for a tall girl, who would usually have shorter friends and if she is taller than most guys, she will also subconsiously try to ‘shorten’ herself by hunching her back.   

Dangers of Hunched Back

When the back is hunched, the backbone does not remain in a neutral “S” shaped position. In fact, the thoracic spine (upper spine) curves outward. This imbalance will cause overcompensation, ie some muscles working harder than it had to. Not only that, it also causes additional stress to our backbone. One can imagine years of chronically stressing the backbone will result lower back pain, muscular aches, osteoporosis, and possibly arthritis.

We may not be conscious of it, but it is better to stand and sit as what nature intends to be without hunching our backs. We will look much nicer and more confident no matter what clothes we wear if our backs are not hunched.

Exercises to Reduce Hunched Back Syndrome

Parents will tell their kids to ‘sit straight’ if they see their kids hunched over something. While being conscious of our posture by checking ourselves over the mirror helps, we also need to do some stretching exercises to loosen tight muscles and strengthen the back muscles.

1. Using the exercise band to stretch the front and back muscles

Pic taken from: http://exercise.about.com/library/blbandstretch.htm

Pic taken from: http://exercise.about.com/library/blbandstretch.htm

This exercise can be done either standing up or sitting down. When you use an exercise band, you will feel your muscles stretching- because people who are hunched back always bend forward, this exercise counters the normal movement. Do this as often as you can- while watching TV or during your free time. Caution: Don’t do this exercise in a single strong jerk movement or on cold muscles- to reduce the risk of sudden muscle pull). Make sure your muscles are warm enough through some light cardio.

If you are giving execuses like do not have exercise band, etc, you can do the stretch without any tool (but it is less effective- the exercise band makes you really feel the stretch):

Picture source: www.briandevlin.com/

Picture source: www.briandevlin.com/

or this

Pic source: http://naplesfloridachiropractor.blogspot.com/2009/02/stretches-for-your-neck-trapezius.html

Pic source: http://naplesfloridachiropractor.blogspot.com/2009/02/stretches-for-your-neck-trapezius.html

2. Strength building via cable machine or exercise tube

Pic Source: Myfit.ca

Pic Source: Myfit.ca

You can click on the picture which contains the link for the instruction. If you do not have access to a cable machine, you can use an exercise tube (note-exercise tubes are sturdier than exercise bands). Myfit.ca website contains lots of illustrated exercises with good explanation.

3. Wall push ups

This is especially useful if you find that doing push up on the floor is too difficult. Try to wall push up but make sure your posture is correct- ie- your butt does not jut out because you will put a lot of strain in your lower back if you do that. Tuck in your stomach when doing this- you also work on your core muscles and protect your lower back as well. You can click on the link provided below for other variations of push ups. Notice the lady in the picture below is doing her push up in the correct posture.

Pic source: http://www.grrlathlete.com/PushupExpert

Pic source: http://www.grrlathlete.com/PushupExpert

There you have it- simple exercises you can try at home- it just take minutes of your time. You can do it while waiting for a TV commercial break. Consistent practice and being conscious of your posture (straigthen yourself when you are conscious that you are hunching) will help to arrest a permanent hunched back.

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