Humpback posture has multiple causes and, therefore, multiple ways of being corrected. Each "cure" for humpback posture comes from a different schools of thought, formulated from over fifty years of experimentation in the physical therapy field. They range from simple and straightforward to cutting-edge and complex -- from simple strength exercises to modern technological approaches.
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There are a few different terms for humpback posture which describe the same problem. The original term, coined by Dr. Vladimir Janda, a Czech physiotherapist, was "upper-crossed syndrome."
The theory is that upper back and chest muscles are tight and pull the head forward. At the same time, neck flexors (muscles in the front of the neck) and middle-back muscles are weak and allow the tight muscles to further pull the head forwards.
If you look at someone who has a humpback posture you'll notice that their head juts out in front of their body. This is known as "forward head posture," where the back of the neck is lengthened and the front of the neck shortened.
Strengthening and Stretching
Treatment of the humpback posture, or upper-crossed syndrome, was pioneered originally by Dr. Janda. He noticed that certain muscles were tight (the chest and upper back) and others were weak (the front of the neck and middle back). His approach to correcting the posture was to strengthen the weak muscles and stretch the tight ones using simple exercises.
One exercise you can use to strengthen the middle back and stretch the pectoralis major at the same time is the resistance band row.
Read More: Types of Posture
Resistance Band Row
Perform 15 to 20 repetitions while focusing on moving your shoulders forwards and backward with the movement.
Secure a resistance band to a fixed object around shoulder-height. Stand, facing the resistance band with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
Grip the resistance band and stand in an athletic position with your knees bent, butt back, spine tall and head back.
Pull the resistance band back until your elbows are touching your ribcage. Pull your shoulders back and try to pinch your shoulder blades together as you pull the band back.
Let the band go forwards until your elbows are straight. That counts as one repetition.
Pectoralis Minor Stretch
The other piece of the puzzle is stretching the tight muscle. Physical therapist Mike Reinold has a stretch for the pectoralis major in an article on his website that you can do at home.
Relax into this pectoralis minor stretch and let gravity do the work.
Lie down on your back on a bench. Roll up a small towel and place it vertically along your spine between your shoulder-blades.
Raise your arms overhead like you are making the letter "Y." Your elbows can be slightly bent.
Relax and let gravity pull your arms down towards the ground, opening up your chest.
Stretching and strengthening exercises certainly won't hurt, but they may not cure the root problem of your humpback posture. One of the reasons that your head leans forward has to do with the way you breathe. According to an article by physical therapist Jason Masek, the humpback posture may come from the way you exhale.
When you breathe out you tend to round your shoulders, sink the chest and pitch the head forward. When you inhale, the opposite happens: your shoulders and head come back and the chest sticks out. In order to correct this problem, you'll have to work on your breathing.
Read More: How to Improve Neck Posture
Balloon Breathing Exercise
The Postural Restoration Institue has an exercise that is specifically designed to help you breathe better to enhance your posture. They recommend performing it twice per day. Here are the instructions from an article about the exercise on their website:
Lie on your back with your feet flat against a wall and hips and knees bent at 90 degrees. Place a 4 to 6 inch ball between your knees.
Place your right arm above your head and a balloon in your left hand.
Inhale through your nose and as you exhale through your mouth, perform a pelvic tilt so that your tailbone is raised slightly off the mat. Keep your low back flat on the mat. Do not press your feet into the wall, rather pull down with your heels.
You should feel the back of your thighs and inner thighs engage as you keep pressure on the ball between your knees.
Inhale through your nose and breathe out into the balloon.
Pause for 3 seconds with your tongue on the roof of your mouth before you inhale again. Do not straighten your neck or cheeks as you blow out.
After blowing out four times, take the balloon out of your mouth. Repeat this cycle four more times.
Posture Correction Technology
There are also more advanced corrections for the humpback posture. According to a 2013 case study in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, prism glasses, which bend light and distort your vision, have been used to correct humpback posture. According to the researchers, someone with humpback posture may have their vision skewed so that they are constantly looking down, which leads to the development of a humpback. This vision issue may be corrected by a certain type of prism glass.