How to Fix Sway Back and Hunch Back to Improve Your Back Posture
Having problems with your back? Do you suffer from back pain but are not sure what is causing it?
If you answered yes to either of the questions above then you need to continue reading on down this page.
This page is aimed at helping you understand 2 of the main types of poor back posture, sway back and hunch back.
You’ll find out what causes them, so that you can take steps to avoid circumstances where your back posture may be affected.
Of course knowing why it happens is only one part of the process, I’ll also show you ways in which you can help fix these common spine alignment problems.
Your back, or rather your spine, is probably the most important part of your body, so it makes sense to maintain good back posture.
What You’ll Learn – Quick Links
- What is sway back?
- Causes for Sway Back.
- What is hunch back?
- Causes for hunch back.
- How to fix them.
- Other ways to help.
Your spine itself consists of 24 bones called vertebra, each of which is movable and is responsible for holding you up in order to maintain correct posture, it also plays a crucial role in your movement.
This isn’t the only function your spine has though, it also houses your spinal cord and nerves, therefor, your spines most important job is to protect these.
Since our nervous system is responsible for controlling all other parts of our body, it’s super important to maintain your spines health and this starts with your back posture.
Common types of poor back posture
There are two common complaints when it comes to poor back posture, the first is sway back, also known as hyper-lordosis, which affects the lower back and then there’s hunch back, also known as kyphosis, which affects the upper back, think of Quasimodo as an extreme example! (Image below)
Both of these are an exaggerated curve in your spine which, if left, can lead to back pain in and around the affected area with tightness and sensitivity within the spine, while also causing you to develop decreased flexibility.
What is Sway back (Hyper-lordosis)?
Sway back, or hyper-lordosis, is when you have an exaggerated curve in the lumbar region (lower back) of your spine. While having an arch in your lower back in itself is very much a normal thing (lordosis), having an excessive arch is not and can lead to lower back pain.
This type of back posture can be spotted rather easily because if you have sway back, you may notice your belly seems to bulge out making it look bigger than it actually is, not only that, your butt might appear to stick out too!
If this type of back posture is left unattended to you then increase the risk of injury such as a slipped disk, which can affect close by nerves causing pain, numbness and even a lack of strength in your legs or arms.
What causes Sway back?
As far as posture habits goes, this is caused by simply sitting too often without stretching. Sitting too often shortens and tightens your hip flexors, pulling your pelvis forwards resulting in an exaggerated curve within the lumbar region of your spine.
You can also develop sway back from having excessive belly fat or, if you’re a lady, being pregnant can also cause the same problem. Here are some medical conditions that can also cause sway back:
- Discitis – This is an infection that affects the rubbery discs between your spines vertebra.
- Osteoporosis – This is a condition which is the thinning of your bones and causes your bones to become weaker than they should.
- Spondylolisthesis – This is when one of the vertebra in your spine has shifted out of position and rests on the vertebra beneath it.
Hunch Back (Kyphosis)
Hunch back is the same in that it affects the natural curvature of your spine, however, the problem here is that it’s your upper back that’s affected instead of the lower.
Other than having hunch back you might not ever notice any other symptoms, however, if left and you continue to practice poor posture habits rather than maintaining correct back posture, you may develop further symptoms as the problem continues to worsen, such as:
- Breathing becoming more difficult due to compressed lungs and airways
- Difficulty with eating
- and excessive tiredness
This can be quite embarrassing to have to deal with, especially in the younger generation, and can lead to you becoming less confident within yourself putting a real dampener on your day to day activities.
What causes hunch back?
Where postural hunch back is concerned this type of poor back posture is generally caused by slouching forward, not sitting with your back to the back rest of your desk chair or even carrying heavy backpacks!
Leaning the body forwards for long periods of time tightens the muscles in your chest while stretching muscles in your back, this pulls your upper spine forwards. Here are some medical conditions that can cause hunch back:
- Arthritis – This can be any number of joint diseases, of which there are over 100, and can affect anyone of any age.
- Osteoporosis – This is the thinning of the bones and is responsible for weakening them.
- Spondylolisthesis – When one of the vertebra has shifted position and is leaning on the vertebra below it.
- Damage to spine – If the spine suffers with a severe injury or fracture you could be left suffering with hunch back.
How to fix poor back posture
Your back is an extremely vital part of your body when it comes to anything you do, so it’s important that you take proper care, even when it comes to fixing your back posture.
Below are some of the easiest and most effective ways to help you improve both of the two most common back posture complaints.
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Exercises to improve Sway back
Exercise 1 – Child’s Pose
Kneel on the floor, with your big toes touching one another, and sit on the heels of your feet. You’ll maintain this contact between your butt and your heels throughout the exercise.
Keeping your butt rested on your heels, with your knees hip width apart, reach your arms out in front of you along the floor, as far as you can.
Try and keep your back straight and your head looking directly down at the floor, hold this position for 30 seconds before returning to starting position. Repeat this exercise 3 times and perform twice a day.
This exercise is actually a yoga pose, also named Balasana, it’s a great exercise to stretch your tight hips which helps alleviate sway back. This exercise also stretches the lower back muscles, tight lower back muscles contribute towards the development of sway back, so this is definitely one of the most effective exercises to improve your back posture.
Exercise 2 – The Forward Lunge
Stand with your knees and feet hip width apart and take a large step forward with the leg of your choice.
Bend at the knee 90° with the leg that is forwards, make sure to keep your back straight while you lower your body.
At this point your back leg should be slightly bent, you can rest the back knee on the floor if you find it easier.
Hold this position for a minimum of 30 seconds, you should be able to feel the stretch in your hip, if not then try pressing your hips forwards until you feel it.
Repeat for the other leg and do 5 total with each leg 2 or 3 times a day.
Doing forward lunges will helps stretch out tight hip flexors. Tight hip flexors pull down on your lower spine causing sway back, therefore this exercise will help relieve the tension between the two, allowing your lower back to go back to its correct alignment.
Exercise 3 – Planks
Get onto your knees and with your arms at a 90° angle rest your arms on the floor, supporting your weight with your forearms.
While in this position, move your knees away from your body, stretching your body out, until you are on the tips of your toes and knees are off the floor.
Make sure you have moved your legs far enough back as to have a straight line running from your ankles all the way through the hips to the shoulders.
When in the plank position, pull your belly in to get your core working and hold this position for as long as you can hold this position comfortably.
Once you have completed this exercise bring your knees back in towards your body and relax. Repeat this exercise twice a day.
Strengthening your core muscles, namely your abdominal muscles in this case, will help reduce the muscle imbalances that are causing your sway back posture. While some muscles are pulling too hard, others are not pulling hard enough, giving you the exaggerated arch in your lower back.
Bonus Exercise – Squats
- Stand with feet shoulder width apart with your toes pointing outwards at about a 45° angle.
- Stand up tall, with your back straight and your head and shoulders pulled back, you will keep your upper body in this position during the entire exercise.
- While maintaining this stance, lower yourself down by bending at the knees and make sure to keep your knees directly above your feet. Lower down until your upper leg is parallel to the floor.
- Remain in the down position briefly, as if sitting on a chair, making sure your back is straight the entire exercise before returning to the starting position by pushing down on your heels.
- Do 15 squats per set, if this is too hard then do as many as you can, if 15 seems easy then double the amount or go until failure. Do this twice a day.
Doing squats is a great way of strengthening your glutes. Having strong glutes and a strong core (the Plank exercise above helps with the core) will help those muscles keep your spine in its correct postural alignment. While the first 2 exercises are aimed at loosening the tight muscles causing sway back, the last 2 are designed to strengthen the muscles to prevent your sway back from returning.
Exercises to improve Hunch back
Exercise 1 – Bridge
Lay down flat on your back on the floor or a mat, with your arms running down the side of your body, bring your knees up until your feet are flat on the floor.
Now, while sucking your abs inwards and your butt (glutes) tensed, lift your hips off of the ground until you have a straight line running from your knees, through your hips and to your shoulders.
Hold this position for around 30 seconds before returning back down to the starting position.
Repeat this exercise 4 – 5 times, I find before bed being the best time, you’re laying down anyway!
This exercise helps with training your body, which includes its muscles and joints, to get used to bending backwards, this will help reverse your bodies urge to hunch itself forwards. Performing this exercise will also help to strengthen your core and those muscles surrounding your spine, improving your back posture in the process.
Exercise 2 – Lying Y Handcuffs
- Lay on your floor or your mat face down with your arms out in front of you as if you was making a ‘Y’ above your head with your thumbs pointing towards the ceiling.
- Lift your head and arms off of the ground (at the same time), just until your shoulders and upper chest is raised off the floor/mat.
- Now gently bring your arms out to the side and round to your back meeting each other in the middle of your back (your arms should twist round so your palms are now facing up (imagine having handcuffs on).
- Once your arms/hands have met in the middle of your back slowly bring your arms back round to the starting position.
- Repeat this exercise until you can feel it doing its job, you’ll feel it in your upper back, you should aim for at least 10.
The Lying ‘Y’ Handcuffs are great because they help you to regain mobility in the upper back and your shoulders too. It does this by strengthening the rotator muscles in your shoulders and upper back, strengthening this set of muscles will help keep your spine and your shoulders in each of their correct posture alignment.
Exercise 3 – Chest Stretch
- Standing at the corner of a wall or at a doorway, now hold onto the wall or door/frame. You’ll want to have your arm up at shoulder level and standing away from the wall/door roughly arms length away.
- Keeping hold of the wall/door, turn away and face away from where you’re holding onto, your arm should now be facing directly out to your side.
- From this position, keeping your head back and your back straight, lean forwards until you feel a pull in your chest and in your shoulder, you can have one foot in front of the other to make this easier.
- Hold this position for around 30 seconds before releasing and repeating for the other arm. Do this 3 to 5 times on each side a day.
Tight chest muscles (pectoralis major and minor) contribute to developing hunch back because your pectoral muscles are connected to your shoulders and upper arms, so, when tight, pull the shoulders forwards and down causing rounded shoulders, this leading to hunch back posture in order to compensate.
Here are some other ways to improve back posture
If you’re not aware of those bad habits that are causing you to develop poor back posture, such as slouching, then you’re not going to know what’s causing the problem in the first place.
Just being aware of how you sit at work or how long you are sitting is going to help you on leaps and bounds.
Don’t sit for long periods without stretching, walk around every now and again, be mobile and don’t slouch when you are sitting, use the back rest of your chair, at your desk or otherwise.
I recently wrote a post called “5 Posture Hacks to Improve Posture” that would be a good read at this point.
It’s so easy to forget that how you sleep can be a deciding factor when it comes to your back posture.
You shouldn’t sleep with your head too high for instance, your head should be in it’s neutral position and only your head and neck should be supported by the pillow and NOT your shoulders.
Having your shoulders raised up on the pillow is actually forcing your back to curve and little do you know, it’s staying that way.
Try sleeping with a rolled up towel under your lower back to help maintain the natural curve in your back and don’t have your head raised on too many pillows.
Pilates is a collection of exercises that are designed to help you improve your core strength, your flexibility and, most importantly in this case, your posture.
You can perform Pilates exercises at home to help you strengthen the core muscles that will help keep your bones in their correct postural alignment.
So there you have it.
That’s all the information you should need to fix the two most common back posture complaints, sway back and hunch back.
All it takes now, on your part, is to follow the advice that’s outlined above.
If you haven’t done so already then I suggest you to check out Body Weight Pilates, brought to us from Sylvia Favela, with over 50 exercises you’re sure to improve your posture leaps and bounds.
If you think this advice can be improved in any way or even if you would just like to leave a message, then we’d love to here from you, you can do so on the contact us page.
Wishing you all the best on your journey to fixing your back posture!
Do you suffer with poor back posture, how did you find the exercises on this page? Let me know in the comments below.