Technology is useful, but there’s no denying that it has its downsides. Spending too much time scrolling through social media isn’t just associated with sleep issues and an increased sense of loneliness, but spinal problems. Ever heard of “dowager’s hump”?

The term refers to a curvature of the upper spine most commonly caused by chronic forward leaning, according to the Cleveland Clinic. (“Dowager” refers to a widow who owns property that belonged to her late husband, though the concern can affect anyone, regardless of their sex.) The issue can become painful, but the good news is that dowager’s hump caused by poor posture is both reversible and preventable, according to Ahmad Nassr, M.D., an orthopedic spine surgeon at the Mayo Clinic.

Ahead, learn more about dowager's hump and exercises that can combat the issue if it's causing you discomfort, pain, or insecurity. (

Is It Possible to Exercise Your Neck?

What Is Dowager's Hump?

Dowager’s hump is a colloquial term that’s medically referred to as “excessive thoracic kyphosis,” a rounded hunch that forms at the base of your neck, says Dr. Nassr. (Refresher: Your spine is made up of three sections: your cervical spine, located above the base of your neck, your thoracic spine, which runs from the base of your neck to your abdomen, and your lumbar spine, spanning your lower back.) “While we all have some rounding of the thoracic spine (mid-back), excessive thoracic kyphosis can appear abnormal and may be related to pain,” says Dr. Nassr.

Several causes can lead to dowager’s hump, including irreversible conditions, such as Scheuermann’s kyphosis, which is when your spine becomes excessively rounded since your vertebrae are wedge-shaped and not rectangular, or congenital issues, i.e. when your spine doesn’t form correctly before birth, explains Dr. Nassr. The most common cause of dowager’s hump, though, is regularly practicing poor posture, e.g. when looking down at your computer or phone screen for hours at a time. (

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The development of a dowager’s hump due to poor posture is usually slow and gradual. Incorrect posture contributes to the weakening of your upper back muscles, which are responsible for supporting your upper spine, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Dowager's Hump Exercises

As for how to get rid of dowager's hump caused by poor posture, certain movements can help. "Exercises that strengthen the back muscles are critical in trying to improve the appearance and alignment of the spine," says Dr. Nassr. Ahead, check out six exercises you can do every day to help improve your posture and counteract a dowager's hump.

Chin Tucks

“Chin tucks can help to get the cervical spine properly lined up with the thoracic spine (aka the upper part of the spine), thus improving posture and neck strength,” says Kelyssa Hall C.S.C.S, C.E.A.S, an exercise physiologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

A. Begin in a seated position with feet flat on the floor.

B. Draw neck straight back as if making a double chin and hold for five seconds, then return to start.

Do 10 reps.

Cervical Extension Stretch

To help improve mobility throughout your spine, which helps with alignment, rely on this stretch, says Hall.

A. Begin in a seated position with feet flat on the floor. Draw neck straight back as if making a double chin.

B. Tilt head upward and hold for five seconds.

C. Return to start, looking straight ahead.

Do 10 reps.

Scapular Retractions

Scapular retractions are an exercise that focuses on opening up your shoulders and chest. That helps "get the shoulders relaxed and less rounded for better posture," says Hall.

A. Begin in a seated position with feet flat on the floor.

B. Squeeze shoulder blades together and hold for five seconds. Avoid shrugging shoulders and arching lower back.

Do 10 reps.

Thoracic Extension

"Thoracic extension is helpful for improving chest and shoulder mobility, thoracic spine (upper back) mobility, and overall alignment of the spine for better posture," says Hall.

A. Sit in a chair with feet flat on the floor, and back supported by the back of the chair. Place hands behind head to support neck.

B. Tighten core muscles and arch upper back over the top of the chair while looking upward and hold for five seconds. Avoid arching lower back throughout stretch.

Do 10 reps.

Wall Angels

"Wall angels can help improve the alignment of the spine while strengthening the shoulder muscles and the muscles that support the [lower body]," says Hall.

A. Start in a standing position with back against a wall and arms at sides with palms facing forward so that the backs of your hands are against the wall. Make sure head, shoulders, butt, and low back are in contact with the wall and feet are about three inches from the wall with a soft bend in knees.

C. Slowly raise arms above head as far as possible, while engaging core and drawing belly button toward spine. While raising arms, make sure head, shoulders, butt, and lower back remain in contact with the wall.

D. Lower arms back down to starting position.

Do 10 reps.

Banded T's

If you’re looking for an extra challenge and want to add some resistance to your stretches, try doing banded T’s, suggests Winnie Yu, P.T, D.P.T, C.P.T., a physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments. Banded T’s are one of Yu’s “go-tos for upper back postural strengthening and upper back mobility,” she says. “[This] exercise helps to strengthen the muscles in the back to allow for more upright posture, less forward hunching of the upper back and rounding of the shoulders.”

A. Hold onto a resistance band at each end with both hands.

B. Bring hands up and out in front of chest while holding the resistance band straight but without any tension.

C. Slowly, pull hands apart from one another to create tension on the band while squeezing shoulder blades together.

D. Release the tension, bringing hands back in front of chest and to a neutral position.

Do 10 reps.


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