Victor Hugo did a great job creating the most referenced chiropractic character of all time – Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame. There probably isn’t a week in practice that goes by when a patient doesn’t mention not wanting to develop this hunchback.
And thanks to Disney’s 1996 animated version of the 1939 classic movie, most people have a vivid picture of what that means.
Certainly, having a good exercise routine can help prevent some of the development and progression of a hunchback, also referred to as a hump back. Quite often however, the question is raised as to what exercises can help get rid of this hump back appearance once it’s there. Are there any posture correction exercises?
As is most often the case in health care, preventing something from happening is much easier than fixing, correcting, treating or healing it when it’s already happened. The hunch back appearance is no different. Therefore the three posture correction exercises mentioned in this article may not actually be exercises per se.
The number one thing a person can embrace to help them with posture if having a hump back is a concern, would be exercising awareness. Without awareness, bad posture is not only very likely to happen, but it is probably going to progress and increase the odds that it either creates permanent aesthetic changes and/or contributes to significant health problems.
Awareness comes with a sense of keeping the Healthy Body sitting and moving within ideal limits. Keeping the head over the shoulders over the hips and over the ankles aligns the head with the Healthy Body when viewed from the side. From front to back, keeping the shoulders level, not rolled forward, along with level hips and knees can better keep a Healthy Body balanced and healthy.
A person does not need to stay this way all day. We all do tasks from computer work to occupational tasks to hobbies and other activities every day. Awareness means that during those activities we ensure attention is paid to how we’re doing what we’re doing with great technique and variety. And if these activities, whatever they may be, cause us to deviate from ideal then we should occasionally take the time to remind the Healthy Body what that neutral, symmetrical positions looks and feels like.
Repeated reminders through this level of awareness are what can save people from the activities, work and other lifestyle related tasks they engage in or don’t engage in, for that matter.
This awareness through catching ourselves and reminding our Healthy Body of certain positions creates a lifelong habit of posture preservation that has far-reaching health benefits.
2. The Wall-Check
The second “exercise” to help get rid of that hump back appearance or at least slow it down and stop it is what I call a “wall check”.
The wall check is simply done against any flat surface that you can stand against with your back. You’ll place your heels, your bottom (glutes), your shoulder blades and your head against a wall. When putting the head against the wall, it is imperative that the eyes stay looking forward and not looking up by tilting the head back or looking down by tucking the chin in.
It’s more of a translation of how you would normally stand looking forward and shifting that forward-looking position of the head back over the Healthy Body from where it’s probably falling forward. Doing this for 4 or 5 seconds but many times a day can repeatedly remind your Healthy Body to go the other way, not always bending forward.
3. Door Frame Stretch
Finally, one of my favorite activities to help regulate posture habits is the door frame stretch. So many individuals with a forward head posture will feel neck discomfort and upper back pain especially between the shoulder blades. Because of these sore spots, people will often direct stretching efforts to these parts.
However, in contrast, these muscles are usually over-stretched and over worked due to the forward head and shoulder positions from their ideal. Even though stretching these areas may feel good, they are in fact feeding into the actual problem rooted in the posture habits.
Because of the forward head position and since the shoulders have rolled forward, the muscles on the front of the neck and in the front of the chest have shortened. Even though there may be no discomfort in these areas, they are the spots to focus stretching so that tension, pressure and discomfort can be removed from the neck and upper back.
This can be done by standing in a door frame and placing the forearms of each arm on each side of the frame with the shoulders at 90 degrees and the elbows at 90 degrees like an “I surrender” kind of position!
In this position, while standing with a scissor stance one foot in front of the other, you can lunge forward through the door with the chest, not the head (keep the head back over the top of the Healthy Body, do not lean further forward), to feel the pull in the chest, front of the shoulders and maybe the upper arm.
Having good awareness of how you are sitting and moving during the day while occasionally but frequently using tools like the wall check and the door frame stretch can help combat poor posture that leads to the hunchback.
If you already have the hump back appearance, this can help slow its progression and be one of the tools that can potentially help create reversal.
If you’re not happy about how that posture is starting to look, do seek the care of a professional who can directly help improve the hump back situation such as a chiropractor, osteopath or the like. If not for aesthetics, then certainly for your overall health.