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,
    I have several issues with my posture and I always have (I’m 20F). I have rounded shoulders, forward neck, hunch back, one side of my hips and ribcage sticks out more than the other, and I think I have Lordosis or a pelvic tilt. I’ve been looking at your exercises and I’m wondering about a few things.

    1. If I need to fix so many things, how can I work out which exercises to do and how do I work out a routine (so to speak)? If I need to do them 2-3 times a week, how can I fit everything in to make sure that I’m trying to get the most out of doing this?.

    2. Does sleep posture affect your overall posture that much? I cant sleep on my back, so I usually sleep on my front or on my sides or sometimes In a fetal-like position and my neck is always so far forward. My question is, would it be better to try and sleep on my back with a high pillow? All my pillows are low but soft, and I have a bamboo pillow which is bigger and harder, but It might be too high. I think this might not help my neck posture.

    3. Everytime I try and sit up straight (specially sitting down), It hurts so bad that the only way I can get relief is sitting back into my bad posture. Sometimes its so bad, I get migraines. How do i fix this?

    4. The top of my back (where the base of my neck is), looks like it has a massive hump. Its so embarrassing. Will this eventually go away if I fix my posture?

    I apologise for the questions.
    Thank you!
    Molly

    Reply
  2. Phenomenal write-up. I’ve been dealing with this since at least Junior High, and I’m well into my 40’s. I’m going to start working through this and will report back.

    Thanks for taking the time to post this!

    Reply
  3. Hello Mark,

    I have had hyper lordosis since high school (im 26 now) and this had led to many other problems such as lower back pain, neck pain, upper back pain and now I feel that it’s affecting my hips and ribs.

    I’ve been to chiropractors, physical therapists, doctors, & massage therapists and they only seems to work temporarily or not at all. I feel as if I’m stuck right now and the pain is daily. Should I work with these exercises and stretches daily? Do I have a chance of correcting my posture and living pain free?

    Reply
    • Hello Tiffany,

      If your body can tolerate doing the exercises every day, then this is fine.

      If not, you might need to consider every 2nd or 3rd day depending how your body feels. (More the merrier)

      There is always a chance of correcting/improving posture!

      If you have an arched lower back, also check to see if you have an anterior pelvic tilt and a thoracic hyper kyphosis as these can contribute to the hyperlordosis in the lumbar spine.

      Mark

      Reply
  4. Mark,

    Thank you for such a great resource. I have had problems with my legs becoming weak and I believe it to be from a severe arched back. I started doing the exercises and stretches every night for the last 2 weeks and noticed the last 2 days a little more strength in my legs.

    Thank You,

    Justin

    Reply
    • Hey Justin,

      Great to hear the legs are a bit stronger after doing these exercises.

      Have you had a chance to get a scan of the nerves in your lumbar spine to rule out any compression issue?

      Mark

      Reply
  5. Hi Mark iv been back and fourth your site now for a year or so
    Now though if ask for help
    Do you live in then uk if so please email me if live in the UK if love come see you for my back pain , or do you do online assessment.
    I did message your on face book aswell so if you see Ross H you now it’s me, thanks
    ^
    I’m sure I have anterior pelvis tilt or rib flair, I read another comment on here about a guy and tight over developed lats and back and how he tough it was rounded back son he did pullups so on, I had to check the name as for a sec I though I write is as it was me all over on what he gets and had done

    Reply
  6. Hello mark.
    I have question,
    When I’m squatting I always fall back is that a sign of weakness in a certain area ? If so where do I need to work on to correct this problem I also have got upper back pain could this weakness be causing that to maybe?

    Reply
  7. Yea I can flatten it when I lay on my back. When I lay straight out on the floor there is a curve and I can fit my hands wrist and some of my arm underneath it. This is laying straight on the floor tailbone done arms up legs pointing.

    The good thing is I can flatten the curve to the floor by repositioning my tailbone. So I guess it’s not fused. It’s pretty severe my family noticed as well. The band of my under wear is uneven the back part of the band is higher than the front of the waist.

    Straightening it out is similar to deadbug move I have to actively do it when laying down and hold it

    Reply
  8. Hey Mark I have 1 or 2 more questions
    Does APT or hyperlordosis always cause back pain? I don’t seem to have any lower back pain at all? I did briefly last year few times a month upon waking up but it’s disappeared.

    2 I have big glutes can that affect some of the hyperlordosis test and generally by how much? Is there an alternative besides a x ray?

    I’m 99 percent sure I have it

    Reply
    • Hey Jay!

      1) No – Having APT does not mean you will have any issues. But – in some people with back pain, the APT/Hyperlordosis may be relevant.

      2) Xray would be the most accurate. If you lie down on your back, can you flatten your lower back to the floor?

      Mark

      Reply
    • Wall test with head, shoulders, butt and heels on wall I can fit 2 arms behind my back curve. Floor test I have an arch to and can fit my arm underneath my lower back. When I lay on the floor it’s tail bone down when I put my arm underneath. I was told I have a pretty large curve. Of course I can manipulate it when I do deadbugs and get my back almost flat.

      When I wear a belt around my waist the back of the belt is a higher than the front. When I stand straight it’s pretty bad, I can see it my hips tilting down in the mirror alot, I think I’m just overthinking lol Thanks for the reply be well!

      Reply
    • I’ve been having some real challenges with my lower back lately and I’ve been diagnosed with an “excessive arch” and “over stretched” muscles since high school, and have been to therapy, chiropractors, had scans, the works…but not once was I told the correct name. I’m at my wits end after having a massage and going to therapy yet again last week and I came across this article. Thank you :)

      Reply
  9. On the control your spine section. Where it talks about the line indication Is this somewhere on the back. Also how can you tell the difference between swayback and lordosis

    Reply

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