Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Hello ST community !

During my last workshop, one attendee asked me about a small bump she had at the bottom of the cervical spine. This is something that I already noticed for some people, but never got asked for.

After chatting, @Kit_L suggested me to bring this topic on the forum 🙂

 

A quick search brought me to that thread from a couple of years ago: 

 

So, if I get it right, this hump could be eased by:

  • flattening the thoracic spine
  • strengthening the neck extensor
  • stretching the hip flexors and the pec minor
  • having better habits regarding the posture of the head (e.g. not hunching over the smartphone...)

 

Have you already worked with people presenting this hump? Do you have other suggestions?

Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Vincent_L said:

So, if I get it right, this hump could be eased by:

  • flattening the thoracic spine
  • strengthening the neck extensor
  • stretching the hip flexors and the pec minor
  • having better habits regarding the posture of the head (e.g. not hunching over the smartphone...)

I think this could be summed up by saying: maintain better habitual posture, and stretch/strengthen in a way which makes this easier to do. What that means will vary by person, so while the above points will be great for many, there will be exceptions. But I think the most important point will be to remain mindful of your head posture. In most cases, Dowager's hump, text neck, etc. can be considered an adaptation of the body to support one's habitual use of it. The body needs to be convinced of a need to reverse that adaptation, and occasional stretching/strengthening is simply not very convincing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for you input @Nathan!

I often asled myself whether more mindfulness of posture would be enough. I remember the gait of a friend of mine, former dancer (she did classical dance in her chidhood), she kept carrying her head in the characteristic way of dancers, very elegant. Maybe this is was due to a teacher repeating for hours to keep her posture straight.

I do not know for adults. Habits can be hard to break... Maybe talking with this student could help to find a solution in order to think of her posture more regularly.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its very late at night now and I'm just going to bed, so I wont say much now and will add more tomorrow. This is something I address in my classes. Also, the appearance of the new hump depends on the age of the student - if older (esp if female) it might be due to osteoporosis. In any case, the answer (if there is one) is strengthening the correct muscles and maintaining their use through attention to posture. I've set Notifications on, so with luck that will remind me to respond tomorrow.

 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry about the delay. Here are my views - at some point they may differ from the generally accepted views so you may need to take that into account.

1. In many places the greater weight of the body is in front of the spine - therefore unless we are going to collapse forward, at those levels the muscles along the back of the spine need to be tonically active to hold us up.

2. These should be the deep spinal muscles, the ones right next to the vertebrae (rotatores and multifidus) - NOT the major prime movers (e.g. erector spinae) which are so easy to activate voluntarily. The latter should stay relaxed in normal standing.

3. We naturally use the muscles around the waist, because if we didnt we'd collapse forward at that point. Moreover, at this level, with normal lordosis, the centre of gravity of the body more nearly goes through the centres of the vertebrae, helping us to stand with less muscular effort.

4. However, I suggest we get lazy with the muscles at the level of the ribcage, because the ribcage can stop our upper spine collapsing forward. So I suggest in many people these muscles are chronically underused, and the ribcage becomes compressed. In addition, tightness in the muscles in the front of the chest will tend to increase the natural curve in the upper back (kyphosis).

5. Therefore kyphosis tends to increase over time. Also, in some people, some of the thoracic vertebrae have a wedge shape, which will also assist in promoting kyphosis - I dont know if this is a natural development, or whether they develop their wedge shape because of being exposed to kyphosis while they are growing. In older people if there is osteoporosis the kyphosis can become extreme, due to collapse of the vertebrae.

6. So to correct this, we need to hold the upper lumbar and thoracic spines in a more vertical position, preferably using the deep spinal muscles. This is difficult, because we are not usually aware of them and most people are unable to contract them voluntarily. Because I teach a group of older people, mostly women, we are all very aware of the danger of developing the dowagers hump and we do exercises that I hope will counteract that.

7. But as with all spinal corrections, it starts at the feet. Are they in the correct position and used correctly?

8. Then the legs. Are they held correctly, and are the muscles too tight, and are the muscles activated correctly?

9. Then the pelvis. Is it held level, or are the hip flexors tight so that it tilts down at the front? (giving an excessively S-shaped spine?).

10. Are the deep core muscles (e.g. transversus abdominis) strong, functional and quickly reactive to need? We do lots of exercises for this.

11. Are the muscles in the front of the ribcage tight? Again, we address this.

12. Now we can consider exercises for the upper spine. My favourite one is the yoga sphinx. From front lying, the elbows are shoulder width apart and directly under the shoulders, the shoulders are dropped towards the mat (which lifts the upper spine and puts lots of weight on the elbows), the hands are equally hard pressed into the mat, and hands and elbows are all dragged back towards the feet. The tips of the shoulders are widened (probably activating serratus anterior) which helps the chest to come forward between the shoulders, and then the students are cued to use the deep spinal muscles along the spine and between the shoulder blades to help press the breastbone forward, bring the breastbone more vertical, and increase the extension of the upper back.

12. Getting them to use the deep spinal muscles at the level of the shoulder blades is a big ask, because people don’t know they’ve got them, can’t feel them, and don’t know how to activate them. So I tell them to imagine them, and eventually it happens that they can feel them (they feel something anyway, I don’t have direct anatomical proof) and they learn to contract them voluntarily. To assist this, in the first class with a new student, I cue them by touching the spine with my fingers at the level I want them to feel and activate the muscles. Eventually, they are able to do it.

13. We also do standing and posture exercises. For the upper spine, we stand tall, dip the knees (this takes any residual tension off the hip flexors), tighten the core (held throughout the whole exercise) to hold the pelvis level, then straighten the legs (core still tight). The pelvis should now be level-ish. Then I ask them to push the top of the head to the ceiling, and lengthen the spine upwards using the muscles that they have been feeling in the sphinx exercise. There is also a feeling encouraged of lengthening and lifting up vertically with the muscles around the whole of the back half of the ribcage – I’m not sure what muscles are best here – I know in me the intercostals are among those activated but they are also involved in breathing so I’m not sure that they are the best. The result is that the thoracic spine is strongly held as vertically as possible.

14. This action is a lift and lengthen up, NOT a puffing out of the chest.

15. We also do an exercise which I call the suspended fish. Roll up the towel, put the roll under the shoulder blades, and lie back with arms overhead, elbows out to the side, and fingertips close together. The ankles are loosely crossed, and the knees dropped open to the side. This exercise opens out the whole of the front of the body, and increases mobility in the upper spine. It is used as a relaxation as a preparation for ending the class, but also has this function.

16. Its slow work, because you’re learning to activate and then strengthen muscles you don’t know you have, you’re trying to develop mobility in a relatively immobile area, and if the curvature is prolonged the soft tissues will have accommodated and make correcting it difficult. But over long term it works. All my students (ages 60 – 80) have good alignment of the upper spine.

Hope this is helpful,

Jim.

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you very much @Jim Pickles for the detailed answer!

I went thtough all the points, but will come back at them later.

The student in question was around 40, it was a small hump. I love the idea of going from the feet up, checking each joint. Do you incorporate exercices from Olivia's Slow Flow?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...