How to fix an Arched back (Hyperlordosis)

What is Hyperlordosis?

hyperlordosis

Hyperlordosis refers to the excessive arch in the lower back.

It involves hyper extension in the lumbar spine.


The content presented on this blog post is not medical advice and should not be treated as such. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment.

For more information: Medical disclaimer.


What causes an arched back?

I will be addressing each of the following 7 causes of an arched back (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 to reduce an arched back


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.

d) Decompress your lower back

Check out this post: Spinal Decompression.

(It goes through 14 different ways to decompress your lower back!)

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 an excessively arched back 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!


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

  1. Hi Mark

    Thank you for your reply

    I definitely have hyperlordosis – i can fit my whole arm through the gap when i stand against a wall, not sway back, my hips are always tight, my lower back gets tight and aches when i stand up for too long, i have breathing and digestive issues, my chest caves in – but not my sternum, i can send you a photo if you want?

    my lower belly sticks out and i am skinny with no fat, i may have slight kyphosis, but it seems hyperlordosis / anterior pelvic tilt is the biggest issue, but never any pain….

    Can chiropractors fix hyperlordosis by manipulation or are they best with kyphosis or other?

    many thanks

    Reply
  2. Hi Mark. Thank you so much for creating this website. I have hyperlordosis as you have described it, and hunched shoulders. I know you have described a bunch of exercises and stretching to treat this, but I was wondering if there is any equipment such as an inverted bench that would be helpful? I am not talking about posture braces, but actual professional equipment to help with the exercises. Thanks again.

    Andrew

    Reply
    • Hi Andrew,

      Personally – I don’t use equipment very often as I find the exercises/stretches will give great results.

      The inversion table you mentioned can help decompress the spine and perhaps could loosen up your body.

      For some of the equipment that I recommend, check out this post: Useful Tools.

      Mark

      Reply
    • Hi Andrew,

      Personally – I don’t use equipment very often as I find the exercises/stretches will give great results.

      The inversion table you mentioned can help decompress the spine and perhaps could loosen up your body.

      Mark

      Reply
    • Mark, thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I have a device called a theragun. It was suggested by a personal trainer. Do you suggest this? Also, when the personal trainer was stretching me, he would put a lot of weight into it, to the point it would be painful, or at least uncomfortable. I don’t think doing these exercises and stretches a few times daily is going to be sufficient for me, as I spend the rest of the day reinforcing my posture issues. Ideally, I should stay constantly alert, but in reality I don’t. I know this is an issue of discipline and self awareness, but is there anything more extreme I can do than the exercises and stretching you have suggested? I have no pain or material damage to my spine, and am not fragile. I just have hyperlordosis and “computer neck”, so I can take extreme measures without having to worry about injury. Also, is there anyone in the Los Angeles area you would recommend that could take a more aggressive approach than copying what I see on your videos? Thanks again.

      Andrew

      Reply
      • Hi Andrew,

        Theragun is fine on tight muscles as a release tool. Use the theragun on the erector spinae muscles in your lower back.

        What you might need to consider is addressing your thoracic spine. (common area of stiffness)

        If your upper back is curved, this will force the lower back to over arch.

        See post: Hunchback posture.

        Unfortunately – I do not know of anyone to recommend for you in LA.

        Mark

        Reply
  3. Hi Mark,
    I just discovered your website and have to thank you for being so generous with your advice and individual feedback.
    I am a 65 year-old woman with sometimes-excruciating back and leg pain. Besides disc degeneration (L5 S1) from 15 yrs ago, I hurt my back 5 months ago while pulling up a fencepost. After 3 months of chiropractic, I’m still in great pain. That doc said I have a rotated pelvis and possibly piriformis syndrome. The highest pain points now are just below my right buttock and sciatica on the other leg! The sciatica was originally in both legs and felt like electric shocks. Now it’s mostly in the ankle of my left foot.
    And after browsing your website, I’m sure I also have hyperlordosis and flared ribs. I know I need to exercise and strengthen, but what to start with? Spinal decompression for a few weeks, then what? Is it okay to treat several postural problems at once with exercise, or to do so in a specific order.
    Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer.

    Reply
    • Hello Joana,

      Initial sciatica in both legs may suggest an issue with the lower back CENTRALLY.

      You mentioned the L5/S1 region which could be a possible area where the nerve is being compressed.

      Here are some decompression techniques: Self decompression for lower back at home.

      If your symptoms are related to a disc issue, I would also suggest that you have a read of this post: Bulged Disc Exercises.

      Once your symptoms have resolved, I would generally then suggest to start working on your posture.

      (Note: Please ask your doctor or health care provider before starting any of the exercises!)

      Mark

      Reply
  4. Hi

    I have bad lordosis, i can fit my hand and arm all the way through, when standing flat against a wall – head, butt, heels. I have breathing issues too / digestive issues, which the doctors can’t find anything wrong after scans. My lower back is tight every day as are my hips. I am correct in thinking that this poor posture can interfere and affect my breathing, my chest / upper abs caves in too, not pectus excavatum, its not my sternum, but either side of stomach area, it’s strange, maybe kyphosis too?

    Reply
    • Hey Mark.
      First of all a big fat thanks to you for all your blogs. They are quite helpful. Second thing that I want to share with you is that I used to study on bed over my belly side and that caused I have sever pelvis issues. I am unable to walk properly, unable to sit properly and my left side of pelvis is exaggerted towrds forward and when I walk, I feel like the whole weight if my body is on my left foot. Can you pls resolve my problem.

      Reply
  5. Hello sir. Hope you are having a good day. Sir I have an inward arch on only right side of my back and as I was looking on internet, I came across your site with very effective workouts. I think It’s hyperlordosis on right side. My question is, can hyperlordosis be on single side of back? And if so should I only focus on the arched side I guess? Otherwise please suggest what’s the probable condition would be?
    I’m also having pain in left knee for quite some years now. Can it be due to arched right side or back?
    Would be grateful if you respond. Thanks

    Reply
  6. Hi Mark,

    I have APT and hunchback posture from working at a computer for 10-12 hours a day. My lower back (more on my right side) often hurts if I’m standing up without moving. But within the last 6 months, I’ve developed a pain on the muscles immediately next to my spine in my mid back on my right side, just above the small of my waist/below the chest. It’s a sharper pain localized in one spot, unlike the general lower back pain I experience. This pain comes and goes but usually happens when I’m using my upper body. It could be from standing over the sink washing dishes, or carrying something moderately heavy. If I sit for hours without break I get this pain as well. I have tried to find more information about this pain specifically but have been unable to find any information. Could you point me to specific stretches/exercises that might help? Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Hello Emily,

      Sounds like a rotated torso to me.

      Check out this post: How to fix a Twisted Spine.

      From what you’ve said, I would think your torso is leaning/twisting towards the left side making the right side of your back work hard to prevent the torso from further falling to the left.

      Mark

      Reply
  7. Thanks for your answer Mark, I did suppose I was overusing the QL and that’s a confirmation.

    I forgot to mention that I’m sitting about 6-8 hours a day, this is likely to be causing the QL to be overactive.

    I’m starting to show the famous “6-pack” on my abs though. But it doesn’t look that good to have my stomach going out like this, in fact I find it quite ugly, I hope to get to fix this someday.

    It feels like I should “stop” sitting but that is obviously difficult to do.

    I’m starting to think that the QL is simply weak and needs strengthening, that’s something you didn’t explicitly mention in your post, or I missed it.

    I think I also need to train my bum to get into a more neutral position by activating my glutes.

    Thanks for your post, it’s very inspiring for me to fix my problems, keep it up!

    Reply
  8. Hi Mark,

    Your posts were incredibly helpful.
    I’m facing several conditions at the same time, I know I used to have the worst posture but it’s going better, however, there’s something I’m having troubles getting a hand on.

    I got APT + Kyphosis + Hyperlordosis.
    I used to have a lateral pelvic tilt that is now corrected.
    The APT is still there but improving very slowly.

    Kyphosis same, I’m much less hunched forward but still do, along with winged scapula. I decided NOT to work too much fixing the kyphosis because I feel like when I fix the kyphosis temporarily, it makes my breathing difficult and inhibited because of the APT (I can clearly feel the APT is the culprit here, I tried forcing my body into different positions to understand that). So I’m focusing on fixing the APT but it takes so long! I fell like I’m missing something (see below)

    My entire body used to depend on the right side, the left side was very weak, and I feel like it is still the case somewhere but I can’t get to find which muscles.

    Whenever I walk for longer than 5 minutes, I start getting a dull pain on the left side, weirdly it feels like in the stomach region around the lower ribs but I know I need to stretch the quadratus lumborum using the Pelvic side tilt exercise and that makes it go away, then I can walk again.

    Do you have any idea what do I need to strengthen to avoid the quadratus lumborum activating and getting tight when I’m walking?
    I also noticed that I got rather weak quads on that side, especially on the upper side of the leg, but very tight groin which makes it difficult to strengthen the quads without activating the entire region.

    Thanks again for your work!

    Reply
    • Hi X,

      With an APT, you will likely be using the QL to keep your torso up right whilst walking.

      If you are over using the QL, you might not be use your abdominal muscles enough. The dead bug exercise is great for this! (it will help with the APT as well)

      Also, check to see if you have a corresponding rib flare.

      If you have one sided issues, I would also recommend that you check if you have a rotated pelvis.

      How to fix a Rotated Pelvis.

      Mark

      Reply
  9. Sir i am suffering from excessive lumber lordois like i can freely move my hand in the gap while standing straight with the wall now and i have this since birth due to some mishandling by the doctor while delivering me. I also have anterior pelvic tilt which is my normal standing position and my muscles are stif because i can’t do that exercise of neutral pelvic allingment while standing i am a overwheight child or obese you can say with a weight of 98 kgs. I am a 20 years old female and i sleep on my stomach since childhood and can’t sleep on my back will this make my condition worse and how long will it take to recover my situation or is it even possible to treat with the help of these exercises. Please reply sir

    Reply
  10. I am 40 and have a hollow back and slightly hunched shoulders. It was caused, according to doctors at that stage, by oversized boobs! I had a reduction to correct that problem at age 19, but my back and shoulders got worse. I gained excessive weight because of chronic medication (sodium valproate) and yes, it kept getting worse.
    6 months ago I decided to change my lifestyle and eating habits. And get excercise. I weighed 150,5kg. I lost 24,5kg. I’m trying to get more exercise but the pain and discomfort in my back makes it difficult. When I’m on my feet long my lower back feels like my hips and spine are going to disconnect any moment.
    Will the pain ease as I lose more weight?
    Can the hyperlordosis be responsible for my knee problems?
    Is the hyperlordosis in any way responsible for my bad balance? I fall alot too. Have difficulty picking my feet up when I walk. I drag my feet and walk duck footed (feet pointing to the outside.) Are these all related?
    Will these exercises help correct the problem at my age?
    I’m a state patient and do not have access to private doctors here. These clinics I have access to don’t help with problems such as these.
    Any further advice will be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Hello,

      Large breasts can definitely impact how one holds their posture. (especially if the muscles aren’t strong enough to support the increased weight)

      With hyperlordosis (excessive arch in the lower back), prolonged standing may potentially lead to increased pressure in the lumbar spine. If you lose more weight, this can reduce this said tension on the lower back.

      Hyperlordosis does not directly cause knee issues, but it may be related. I would be more incline to see what it happening the hip and foot level with knee issues.

      Hyperlordosis may affect your balance and walking pattern, but it would be hard to say if it is the exact cause of all the issues.

      If you feel that the hyperlordosis a contributing issue, the exercises mentioned on the blog post will be a great place to start!

      Mark

      Reply

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