How to fix Hyperlordosis (Arched back)

What is Hyperlordosis?

hyperlordosis

Hyperlordosis refers to the excessive arch in the lower back.

It involves hyper extension in the lumbar spine.

What causes Hyperlordosis?

I will be addressing each of the 7 causes of Hyperlordosis in the exercise section.


1. Tight/Overactive muscles

Tight and/or overactive muscles in the lower back region will pull the lower back into an excessive arch.

Tight muscles:

  • Erector spinae group
  • Quadratus lumborum
  • Latissimusi dorsi (through the thoracolumbar fascia)
  • Psoas
    • … Too much sitting will make this tight!

2. Weak abdominal muscles

With Hyperlordosis, the abdominal muscle group are placed in a stretched position.

Weak muscles:

  • Internal obliques
  • Transversus abdominis
  • Rectus abdominis

This makes them particularly weak and inhibited.

The primary role of the abdominal muscles is to oppose the strong pull of the lower back muscles in order to maintain a normal lumbar spine curve.

3. Weak Glute muscles

The lower back muscles will tend to compensate for weak glutes muscles.

This can lead to over-activity and hyper extension of the lower back.

4. Anterior Pelvic Tilt

arched back

The pelvis and lower back are directly connected with each other.

If the pelvis is tilted forwards, this will automatically pull the lumbar spine into an arched back.

5. Thoracic Kyphosis

thoracic kyphosis

A hunched upper back will usually be compensated by the over arching of the lower back.

This is to keep the head in a more up right position.

6. Ineffective breathing technique

A sub-optimal breathing pattern may recruit the back muscles which are responsible for pulling the lower back into extension.

7. Excess belly weight

The weight of the belly (especially during pregnancy and in the overweight) can pull the lower back into excessive extension.


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What can lumbar Hyperlordosis increase the risk of?

It can result in an excessive amount of compression in the muscles and joints in the lumbar spine.

This can lead to:

  • Nerve impingement
  • Joint degeneration
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Muscular tightness
  • Postural issues
  • Lower back pain

How can you tell if you have Hyperlordosis?

1. Side profile analysis

lumbar hyperlordosis

Instructions:

  • Take a side profile photo of your standing posture.
  • Take note of the curve of the lower back.

Results: If you can observe a significant arch in the lower back, then you have a Hyperlordosis.

(If you have it – you can not miss it! It’s quite obvious!)


2. Lying down

Instructions:

  • Lie down on your back.
  • Keep your legs completely straight.
  • Stay relaxed.
  • Feel for a gap between your lower back and the floor.
    • You can check this by sliding your hand underneath your back.
Results: If you can easily fit your hand underneath your lower back, then you likely have Hyperlordosis.

3. Get a XRay

If in doubt, you can always just get a XRay scan.

Can my Hyperlordosis be fixed?

As long as the joints in your lumbar spine are not fused together, then there is a good chance that you will be able to restore your natural curve.

To check if you are fused:

Assume the position as above.

If you can reverse the arch in your lower back (ie. lumbar spine flexion), then you do not have fused joints in this area!


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Exercises for Hyperlordosis


Image courtesy of Paul Gooddy at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Note: All exercises must be conducted in a gentle and pain-free manner.

If you have any questions, feel free to join me on the PostureDirect Facebook page.


1. Release the tight muscles

a) Lower back

Instructions:

  • Lie on the floor with you hip and knees bent.
  • Place a massage ball on the tight muscles under the lower back region.
  • Target muscles: (if you are unsure of where these muscles are located, check them out on Google.)
    • Quadratus lumborum
    • Erector spinae
    • Latissimus dorsi
  • Relax your body weight on top of the ball.
  • Do not hold your breath.
  • Move your body in a circular motion on top of the ball to target the tight areas.
  • Proceed to cover all the muscles for at least 1-2 minutes each.

2. Stretches

a) Prayer Pose

Instructions:

  • Kneel on the floor.
  • Spread and reach your hands as far in front of you as possible.
  • Sit back into your hips.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the lower back.
  • Take deep breaths in/out
  • Do this for 1 minute.

b) Side stretch

Muscle: Quadratus Lumborum, Latissimus Dorsi

Instructions:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Bend all the way to one side.
    • To emphasize the stretch, reach your arm over. (see above)
  • Aim to feel a stretch on the side of your body to the lower back.
  • Hold this position for 1 minute.
  • Alternate sides.

Note: For more stretches for the Quadratus Lumborum, check out this post: Quadratus Lumborum stretches.


c) Hip flexor stretch

Instructions:

  • Assume a deep lunge position as above.
  • Tuck your tail bone underneath you.
  • Remain up right.
  • Make sure you feel the stretch in the front of the hip of the back leg.
  • Hold the stretch for a minimum of 1 minute.
  • Repeat at least 3 times on each side.

3. Control your spine

It is important to know the point (red line) of where the most hyper extension occurs in the lumbar spine.

This point will dictate where you should be targeting with the following exercise.


Lumbar spine segmentation

(… this is NOT an easy exercise!)


Video from Van Treese Training

Instructions:

  • Assume the 4 point kneel position with your forearms on the floor.
  • Place your head between your hands in a flexed position.
    • As we are focusing on the lower back, this position will help block movement from the thoracic spine.
  • Starting from your pelvis, gradually curl your lumbar spine (one level at a time) as far as you can go.
  • Reset to the starting position.
  • Repeat 5 times.

4. Learn to breathe

“Breathing?… What has that got to do with my Hyperlordosis?”

… A LOT!

Your breathing is crucial in maintaining the correct posture of your lower back.

The following breathing exercise is designed to help address Hyperlordosis by lowering the position of the ribs.

As the lower ribs drop down, there will be a reduction in the excessive arch in the lower back.

Here’s what to do:

hyperlordosis breathing

Instructions:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Tilt your pelvis backwards to help flatten your lower back onto the floor.
  • Take a deep breath in through your nose and slowly exhale ALL of the air out through your mouth.
  • As you reach the point where you have completely emptied out your lungs, notice how your lower ribs and lower back sink towards the ground.
  • Maintain this lowered rib position through this breathing exercise by gently engaging your abdominal muscles
    • Draw your belly button in.
  • Take a deep breath in.
    • Imagine you are breathing deep into your stomach. Your upper chest should not be moving excessively as you breathe.
    • Aim to expand the entire circumference of your lower chest wall.
    • (Imagine you are inflating a balloon.)
  • Breathe out all the air out of you lungs.
    • Allow the lower ribs sink to the floor as you do this.
  • Continue this diaphragmatic breathing for 10 repetitions
  • Practice this as many times throughout the day!
    • It takes time to get good at breathing properly.

4. The Dead bug exercise

This exercise is king.

The aim of this exercise is to engage your abdominal wall to keep your spine in a more neutral position.

As everyone is at different strength levels, I have included 3 variations of the Dead Bug exercise for you to try.


Thing to keep in mind:

  • Keep the lower back COMPLETELY flat against the floor… ALL OF THE TIME.
    • It is imperative that you do not let your lower back arch and lift off the ground.
  • There should be NO tension in your lower back whilst performing these exercises.
  • Think about keeping your lower ribs down at all times. Your chest should NOT flare out.
  • Remember to engage the core and abdominal muscles throughout all movements.
    • (Think about drawing your belly button down into your spine.)

a) Leg drop (bent knee)

Instructions:

  • Lie on your back with your knee and hip bent at 90 degrees. (feet off floor)
  • Keep both knees bent throughout the movement.
  • Keeping your right knee bent towards your chest, slowly lower the left leg towards the ground.
  • Only lower as far as you can whilst maintaining your lower back completely flat on the ground.
  • Return back to starting position.
  • Alternate legs.
  • Repeat 10 times.

b) Leg drop (straight leg)

Instructions:

  • Lie on your back with your knee and hip bent at 90 degrees. (feet off floor)
  • Keeping your right knee bent towards your chest, slowly lower AND straighten the left leg towards the ground.
  • Only lower as far as you can whilst maintaining your lower back completely flat on the ground.
  • Return back to starting position.
  • Alternate legs.
  • Repeat 10 times.

c) Alternate arm/leg drop

core exercise

Instructions:

  • Lie on your back with your knee and hip bent at 90 degrees (feet off floor) and arms straight up into the air.
  • Slowly lower the left leg AND right arm towards the ground.
    • Only lower as far as you can whilst maintaining your lower back completely flat on the ground.
  • Return back to starting position.
  • Alternate opposite arm/legs.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Note: If you’re like most of the people that I have taught this to, you will probably hold your breath whilst performing these exercises. Make sure that you do NOT hold your breath!

I repeat – Do NOT hold your breath!


5. “Get a strong bum”

(… also known as activating your glute muscles.)

If the Dead bug exercise is king, then strengthening your glute muscles is queen.

If your glute muscles aren’t functioning properly, the lower back muscles will compensate resulting in an arched back.


Here are 3 glute activation exercises:

(Remember: Engage your abdominal muscles and breathe properly!)

a) Standing kick back

Instructions:

  • Whilst standing upright, extend your leg backwards until you feel your gluteals contract firmly.
  • Keep your lower ribs down by engaging your abdominal muscles.
  • Do NOT arch your back.
  • Do not rotate or bend forward.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Alternate legs for 20 repetitions each.

b) 4 pt kneel kick back

glute strengthening exercises

Instructions:

  • Whilst in the 4 point kneel position, extend your leg backwards until you feel your gluteals contract firmly.
  • Keep your back straight by engaging your abdominal muscles.
  • Do not rotate your body. Only your leg should be moving.
  • Do not arch your lower back.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Alternate legs for 20 repetitions each.

c) Bridge

Instructions:

  • Lie down on your back with your knees bent.
  • Flatten your lower back to the ground.
  • Keep your lower ribs down by engaging your abdominal muscles.
  • By pushing off with your heels, lift your buttocks off the floor.
  • Only lift as high as you can without arching your lower back.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 15 times.

For an extensive list of exercises for the glutes, please feel free to have a look at this post:  The best glute strengthening exercises.

6. Address flared Ribs

Flared Ribs is when the lower portion at the front of your rib cage protrudes forwards and out.

flared ribs

If you have flared ribs AND Hyperlordosis, addressing the position of your ribs will likely reduce the arch of the lower back.

Do you have it?
For more information, check out this blog post:

When sitting or standing: Your rib cage should feed directly into your pelvis.

This will place the lumbar spine in a more neutral position.

How to position the ribs correctly:

  • Place your hand at the front of the lower rib cage.
  • Gently guide your lower rib cage down and backwards.
  • You should feel some pressure being taken off your lower back.
    • … if you are very tight, you might even feel a stretch.
  • Note:If you find that you are in a more hunched position after this correction, you will need to address the Hunchback posture.

Keep your torso NEUTRAL!

You are Iron man. (… this is my personal childhood dream)

You have a light beam shooting out of your chest.

In most of you, your light would be pointing in a slight upward or downward direction.

Aim to keep the light beam horizontal.

This will place your torso in a neutral position.


7. Positions to be aware of

a) Arching your back

As your lumbar spine is already in a position of hyper extension, be careful of activities/exercises which forces the back into further extension.

Note: I’m not saying to completely avoid doing them altogether. (There is time and place for these exercises.) Just be careful!

b) How do you sleep with Hyperlordosis?

how to sleep with hyperlordosis

Do you have an excessive arch in your back whilst lying flat on your back?

If so, I recommend sleeping on your back with a pillow underneath your knees.

This will help reduce lumbar extension whilst in the lying down position.

Note: Another option is sleeping on your side.

For more information: Sleeping posture recommendations.

c) Over head activities

If you lack full shoulder mobility, it is likely that you will also over arch the lower back as a compensation.

Examples:

  • Shoulder press at the gym
  • Reaching over head to place clothes on the line
  • Painting the ceiling

8. Reduce belly size

A large belly will shift the center of mass forwards leading to the body being pulled forwards.

To counteract this, the lower back will automatically lean/arch backwards to prevent the body from falling forwards.

Reducing belly size will help shift the center of mass over the feet and reduce the need for the lower back to arch backwards,

9. Fix your posture (as a whole)

Although you will see significant improvements in your Hyperlordosis by just doing the above mentioned exercises, it is also important to check if you have the following postures.

Hyperlordosis is commonly associated with the following types of postures: 

1. Sway back posture

Do you have it?
For more information, check out this blog post:

2. Anterior pelvic tilt

Do you have it?
For more information, check out this blog post:

3. Hunchback posture

Do you have it?
For more information, check out this blog post:

In summary:

a) Release the tight muscles that are holding you into Hyperlordosis.

b) Engage the abdominal muscles to bring your spine into optimal alignment.

c) Strengthen your glutes to reduce reliance on your back extensor muscles.

d) Use the correct breathing muscles.

e) Address other postural areas that may be contributing to your arched back.


What to do next…

1. Any questions?… Leave me a comment down below.

2. Come join me on the Facebook page. Let’s keep in touch!

3. Start doing the exercises!

314 thoughts on “How to fix Hyperlordosis (Arched back)”

  1. Hi Mark

    Thank you very much for your article. I have been struggling with this for years without even knowing what it was.
    I started weightlifting about 3 years ago (I go 5 to 6 days a week to the gym), I used to be very skinny without any muscle mass. Now, I have bulked up, but still remain in my normal weight. I follow a good diet and have decent sleeping habits. But my (upper) belly is always sticking out, which makes me look round and overweight, like my inner organs don’t fit inside my thorax.
    I have episodical lower back pain and stiffness and (since reading this) I catch myself in a hunchback posture when sitting. I feel like I cant hold my own weight.
    Now I see it’s all to do with bad posture. I am hoping that these exercises will help, but is there any posture corrector that you would recommend for this?
    Thanks again for your help and sharing this wealth of knowledge!

    Reply
    • Hey Michel,

      I am not a huge fan on the posture corrector braces as people tend to rely on them way too much.

      This can lead to weak and lazy postural muscles.

      However- If you are starting to address your posture, they can provide some support. I would only recommend the use of it in the short term.

      The main posture braces out are the ones that essentially pull your shoulders back. Try before you buy to ensure a good fit!

      Mark

  2. Mark,

    Do wall angels help with hyperlordosis? If they can, which I feel like they do, I definitely feel like they can give you better posture over time. But can doing wall angels every day actually make you physically taller over time via spine/muscle memory i.e. straightening of the spine?

    Reply
    • Hey Andrew,

      Wall angels are one of my favorite exercises. It can definitely help with hyperlordosis in the lower back.

      If you are missing some of your height due to the excessive curvature of your spine, reducing these curves should physically give you some height.

      Mark

    • Nice! I’m 5’8 1/4 but definitely have at least mild hyperlordosis and kyphosis, probably more than mild. I’m doing wall angels as best I can every day now. Hoping to be 5’9 or a little more when all is said and done.

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