Ever feel like you can’t seem to
fix your posture even when you try to stand up straight? If it seems like you always have a slight hump at the base of your neck, it might be due to something called a “dowager’s hump.” But no worries, there are plenty of exercises that can help fix it.
A dowager’s hump — which gets its name from dignified older ladies with poor posture — is essentially an
excessive curvature in your upper backsays Kristina Kehoe, DPT, RYT, a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and board-certified clinical specialist in women’s health physical therapy. If you have constant forward head posture from slouching at a desk or looking down at your phone, Kehoe says the muscles in your neck and upper back start to weaken and the dowager’s hump can form.
There may also be a build-up of fat cells in the area that further contribute to the hump, says
Dr. Matt Tanneberg, DC, CSCSa chiropractor and owner of Body Check Chiropractic & Sports Rehabilitation. “Our body responds to the abnormal curvature that develops in the upper back by trying to give it more cushion as a defense mechanism,” he tells Bustle.
The best way to improve a dowager’s hump is by making it a habit to
sit up straight throughout the day, Kehoe says. But doing exercises that target your back and shoulders is important, too, as that can strengthen weak muscles and return your neck to its former upright glory. Choose a few moves, do them daily, and you could see some improvement in as little as two to four weeks, notes Dr. Camilla Moore, DCa chiropractor and founder of Wellness Cabinet.
Here, experts share 9 of the best exercises for dower’s hump to get you started.
1. Chin Tucks
This move helps improve your postural alignment as well as the strength of the smaller muscles in the neck that play a role in
maintaining good postureKehoe says.
– Start by sitting in an upright position.
– Relax your shoulders and jaw.
– Without moving any other muscles, draw your chin in towards you as if you’re making a double chin.
– Hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
– Do chin tucks 3 to 5 times a day.
2. Shoulder Blade Squeezes
“This move helps to
strengthen the upper back and serves as a reminder to maintain good posture during your day,” Kehoe says.
– Sit or stand with good posture.
– Relax your shoulders and jaw.
– Draw your shoulder blades directly back, attempting to squeeze them together.
– Hold this position for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
– Do this exercise multiple times per day, especially if you
have a desk job.
3. Cat Cow
Kehoe also recommends this staple yoga move as it improves the flexibility and
mobility of the upper back. “It also aids in maintaining a neutral posture and improving flexibility of the spine,” she explains.
– Get into an all-fours position with your wrists under your shoulders and your 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 motion 10 times.
– Do cat-cows 1 to 2 times per day.
4. Prone TYIs
Ethan Cleary, PT, DPTa doctor of physical therapy at Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy, recommends this move. “These are great exercises for shoulder blade and upper back strengthening while improving upper back posture,” he tells Bustle.
– Lie on your stomach.
– Reach your arms out to your sides to create a T shape, thumbs toward ceiling.
– Reach your arms out at an angle overhead to create a Y shape.
– Reach your arms straight forward to create an I shape.
– Each time you reach, keep your thumbs pointed up and your arms off the floor.
– Do 1 set of 10 reps.
– Progress to 3 sets of 10 per day.
5. Wall Angels
Tanneberg also likes this move. “It will help to create strength and muscle memory of the upper body back muscles that get neglected from chronic bad posture,” he says. “Strengthening and creating mobility through those areas will help to normalize the posture over time.”
– Stand with your back up against a wall.
– Make sure your heels are touching the wall, as well as your back and head.
– Bring your arms up overhead with elbows bent at 90 degrees.
– Slowly push your arms up overhead, keeping your forearms in contact with the wall.
– Repeat 2 sets of 10 reps every other day.
Dr. Suzanna Wong, DCa chiropractor and co-owner of Twin Waves Wellness Centerrecommends this simple exercise to improve a dowager’s hump.
– Stand or sit in front of a mirror.
– Assess whether you are slumped forward.
– Take a deep breath in.
– Raise the top of your head towards the ceiling.
– Pull your shoulder blades back and down.
– Repeat 5 times every day.
7. Serratus Anterior Push-Up
Moore also suggests trying this exercise. “The serratus anterior push-up isolates the
serratus anterior, one of the main stabilizers of the shoulder,” she says. “Strengthening the serratus anterior muscle will help to ‘pull’ the shoulder blades back and take the tension off of the dowager’s hump.”
– Get into a
push up position and straighten your arms without locking your elbows.
– Carefully slide your shoulder blades inward towards each other, then outwards away from each other.
– Keep your neck neutral.
– Push through the shoulder blades, allowing them to rotate, feeling the muscles between your shoulder blades activate.
– Repeat this motion 10 times.
8. Mid Fly Back Exercise
Moore says this exercise will help strengthen and
stretch the muscles in your backwhich then work together to keep your neck in better alignment.
– Stand or sit in a chair with your feet on the floor and your back straight.
– Loop an
exercise band around both hands.
– Hold arms out in front of you with a little slack in the band.
– Relax your shoulders as you pull your arms out to the side.
– Squeeze your shoulder blades.
– Slowly return to the middle.
– Repeat 12 to 15 reps.
9. Thoracic Mobilization On A Ball
Grab an exercise ball: This move will help to loosen up the upper back and neck with this move, Moore says.
– Kneel on the floor with your arms in front of you on a chair or physioball.
– Place your forehead on your arms.
– Slowly open your arms and allow your head to fall towards the floor.
– Think of the area between your shoulder blades as sagging towards the floor.
– Keep your neck neutral with no strain.
– Take a breath and feel a stretch in your upper back.
– Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Greendale, G. (2002.) Yoga for Women With Hyperkyphosis: Results of a Pilot Study. Am J Public Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447294/
Weale, R. (2012.) The Dowager’s hump: an early start? Gerontology. doi: 10.1159/000329828.
Sources: Kristina Kehoe, DPT, RYTphysical therapist, registered yoga teacher, board-certified clinical specialist in women’s health physical therapy
Dr. Matt Tanneberg, DC, CSCSchiropractor, owner of Body Check Chiropractic & Sports Rehabilitation
Dr. Camilla Moore, DCchiropractor, founder of Wellness Cabinet
Ethan Cleary, PT, DPTdoctor of physical therapy at Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy
Dr. Suzanna Wong, DCchiropractor, co-owner of Twin Waves Wellness Center
Get Even More From Bustle—Sign Up For The Newsletter
From hair trends to relationship advice, our daily newsletter has everything you need to sound like a person who’s on TikTok, even if you aren’t.