How to fix Flat back posture

What is a Flat back posture?

Flat back posture is a type of posture that is characterized by the lack of natural curves in the spine.

As a result – the alignment of the spine (as viewed from the side) is flatter than normal.

Characteristics of Flat back posture:

flat back posture

  • Forward head posture: The head is poked forward.
  • Rounded shoulders: The shoulders are slouched forwards.
  • * Flat thoracic spine: Lack of upper back natural curve (Thoracic Hypokyphosis)
  • * Flat lower back: Lack of lower back natural curve (Lumbar Hypolordosis)
  • Posterior pelvic tilt: The pelvis is rotated backwards.

(* This blog post will cover these main areas to address your Flat back posture.)

a) Flat thoracic spine

This is where there is a loss of natural curve (kyphosis) in the upper back.

The thoracic spine is locked into extension.

This can change the shape of the rib cage which may result in winging of the scapula.

Cause: This occurs when the thoracic spine attempts to position the shoulders and head (which are generally slouched forwards in most people) into a more up right position.


Muscles responsible:

  • Spinalis thoracis
  • Iliocostalis thoracis
  • Longissimus thoracis
  • Posterior intercostals

b) Flat lumbar spine:

This is due to a Posterior pelvic tilt.

This is when the pelvis is rotated backwards.

Cause: Sitting with a slouched posture.

This leads to an imbalance of the forces around the pelvis causing a net force to tilt backwards.


Muscles responsible:

Tight/overactive:

  • Hamstrings
  • Abdominals
  • Gluteal muscles

Weak/inhibited:

  • Lumbar paraspinals
  • Hip flexors

Note: If you would like to know more about the ideal pelvis position, check out this post: The correct pelvis position in sitting.

Why is having a Flat back posture a bad thing?

… because curves are sexy! (… in moderation, of course)

Having natural curves in your spine is actually a good thing! (… plus it’s normal)

It helps with load distribution.

In Flat back posture, the spine has a poor ability to absorb and distribute mechanical stress evenly throughout the body.

As a result, the muscles may have to work harder to help stabilise and move the spine.

How to test for it?

a) Flat thoracic spine:

Take a side profile photo:

Observe for the presence of a flat segment in the upper back region.

Note: Make sure that you do not confuse the shape of your shoulder blades as a curve in your upper back.

b) Posterior pelvic tilt:

posterior pelvic tilt flat back posture

In standing, place one finger on your pointy hip bone at the front, and the other on your pointy bone at the back.

If you have a Posterior pelvic tilt, the finger at the front of your hip bone will be noticeably higher in comparison to the finger on the pointy bone at the back.

Exercises for Flat back posture

Note: All exercises are to be performed gently and pain-free


Flat back posture:

1. Flat thoracic spine

a) Releases:

Thoracic paraspinals

releases for flat back posture

Instructions:

  • Place your body weight on a massage ball in the areas to the sides of the spine and between your shoulder blades.
    • Find all of those tender areas!
  • Roll over the ball in a circular motion.
  • Spend at least 5 minutes to do the whole area.
  • Do NOT place the ball directly on the spine. (… It’ll hurt!)

b) Stretches:

Stretch into flexion

Instructions:

  • Whilst sitting, interlock your fingers behind your neck.
  • Proceed to gently pull your neck downwards.
  • Focus on bending at the upper back as much as possible.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in your thoracic spine area.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Take deep breaths in whilst in this position
    • Imagine the air expanding the area between your shoulder blades.

Stretch with foam roller

Instructions:

  • Whilst sitting, place a foam roller on your lap.
  • Bend and round your back whilst your chest is in contact with the foam roller.
  • Focus on bending at the upper back as much as possible.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in your thoracic spine area.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Take deep breaths in whilst in this position
    • Imagine the air expanding the area between your shoulder blades

c) Joint mobilization:

Rotations

Instructions:

  • Get into the 4 point kneel position. (see above)
  • Place one hand behind your head.
  • Proceed to twist your body to the side where the hand is on your head.
  • To isolate the thoracic region:
    • Do not allow your lumbar spine to move:
      • Brace your abdominals.
      • Keep your ribs cage low.
  • Repeat 20 times.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Translations

Instructions:

  • Whilst keeping your pelvis stationary, slide your upper torso to the side.
  • Try to also lift the shoulder on the side you are sliding to.
  • Aim to feel a stretch on that side of your torso.
  • Alternate both sides.
  • Repeat 15 times.
  • (This is a difficult one. Don’t worry if you can’t get it the first time!)

d) Improve Control

Standing Segmental cat/cow

Instructions:

  • Whilst standing, wrap your arms around an exercise ball as much as you can. (see above)
    • Try to get your fingers tips to touch.
  • Starting from the neck: Proceed to round your spine down one vertebra at a time until you reach mid-back.
  • Emphasize the rounding over the areas where your spine is the flattest.
  • From here, reverse your movements back to the beginning.
  • Repeat 20 times.

Intersegmental cat/cow

flat back posture exercises

Instructions:

  • Get into the 4 point kneel position.
    • Hands in line with shoulder joint. Knees in line with hip joint.
  • Starting from the neck: Proceed to round your spine down one vertebra at a time until you reach mid-back.
  • Emphasize the rounding over the areas where your spine is the flattest.
  • From here, reverse your movements back to the beginning.
  • Repeat 20 times.

e) Regain your natural curve

It may take some practice… but you want to keep a slight natural curve in your upper back at all times.

If you don’t do this, your thoracic spine will likely just go back to being flat again.


2. Flat lumbar spine

a) Releases

Hamstrings

Instructions:

  • Place your hamstrings on top of a massage ball.
  • Use your body weight to apply pressure onto your hamstrings.
  • Make sure to cover the whole hamstring muscle on both sides.

Abdominals

Instructions:

  • Lie on your stomach.
  • Place a massage ball under your abdominal region
  • Gently circulate your body weight on top of the ball.
  • Do not to apply too much pressure. 
    • (Do NOT squash your organs! STOP if it hurts.)
  • Use deep breaths to help relax your muscles.
  • Spend at least 1-2 minutes.

b) Stretches

a) Upper hamstring

Instructions:

  • Whilst standing, place a slightly bent knee in front of you. (see above)
  • Lean forward by hinging at the hips.
  • Remember to keep your back straight!
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the upper portion of your hamstrings.
  • Hold for 60 seconds.
  • Alternate legs.

b) Lower hamstring

Instructions:

  • Whilst standing, place a straight knee in front of you.
  • Lean forward by hinging at the hips.
  • Remember to keep your back straight!
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the mid/lower portion of your hamstrings.
  • Hold for 60 seconds.
  • Alternate legs.

c) Abdominal

Instructions:

  • Lie on your stomach.
  • Place hands on floor directly under shoulders.
  • Straighten your elbows.
  • Arch backwards.
    •  (Note: Be careful if you have lower back issues)
  • Aim to feel a stretch across your abdominal region.
  • Breathe and expand your stomach as you stretch.
  • Hold for 60 seconds.

c) Strengthening

Sitting knee lifts

This is to activate the hip flexor muscles.

Instructions:

  • Sit up right.
  • Whilst keep your back still, bring one knee up towards the roof.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Alternate on other side.
  • Repeat 30 times.

Superman

This is to activate the lower back muscles.

Instructions:

  • Lie on your stomach.
  • Stretch out your arms in front of you.
  • Lift your upper body and legs off the floor.
  • Hold for 5-10 seconds.
  • Repeat 30 times.

Pelvic tilt (4 point kneel)

Instructions:

  • Assume 4 point kneel position. (see above)
  • Tilt your pelvis forward.
    • Your back should start to arch
  • Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat 30 times.

Pelvic tilt (In sitting)

exercises for flat back posture

Instructions:

  • Whilst sitting up right, proceed to tilt the pelvis forward.
  • Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat 30 times.

 Glute strengthening

You will also want to strengthen your gluteal muscles whilst in the correct pelvic position. I’ve written a whole post on this here.

d) Maintain neutral pelvis

If you do not maintain a neutral position of the pelvis throughout the day, then your posterior pelvic tilt will continue to be an issue.

Make sure that you tilt your pelvis forward to a neutral position whilst you are walking, standing, sitting etc.

As your body has had this posture for a long time now, it will try to go back to it as a default settingYou need to resist this!

3. Other areas to consider

*** READ THIS ***

If you have a Flat back posture, then you will most likely have:

I have already covered these areas in detailed posts that include EVERYTHING that you will ever need to know.

(Click the links above!)

(I’ve only included 2 exercises for each area in this post just to get you started. Don’t miss out on the rest!)

a) Forward head posture:

Sub-occipital release

sub occipital release

Instructions:

  • Place the ball underneath the base of the skull.
  • Gently rotate your head on top of the ball.
  • Continue for 3-5 minutes.
  • Do both sides.

Chin tucks + nods

Instructions:

  • Gently tuck your chin in.
    • “Make a double chin”
  • Aim to feel a gentle lengthening sensation at the back of your neck.
  • Make sure to keep your eyes and jaw level. Move the head horizontally backwards.
    • Think of the movement like a book sliding back into the shelf.
  • Whilst maintaining this position, nod your chin downwards.
  • Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 30 times.

b) Rounded shoulders:

Chest stretch

Instructions:

  • Place both hands on the door frame.
  • Lunge forward.
  • Do not flare out your ribs.
  • You should feel a stretch in the front part of your shoulder/chest region.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

Elbow flares

Instructions:

  • Start position: Place both hands (elbows forward) on the sides of your head.
  • End position: Pull your elbows all the way back.
  • Aim to feel your shoulder blade muscles contract.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 20 times.

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!

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. Use of the content on this blog post is at your sole risk. For more information: Medical disclaimer.

124 thoughts on “How to fix Flat back posture”

  1. Hello, Mark!

    I have some flareups in my back sometimes, and it tends to bring out some problems, when I make some mistakes, and now what I feel is, that in my scapula level, one vertebrae on the top, and one on the bottom of it, I can feel, that they are a little bit “slipped” inward. like the whole spinal curve is aligned, but in the scapula’s level, those few vertebraes are running more inside, than they supposed to.
    Do you recommend a chiropractor, to put them back in line, or which exercises are gonna make the trick?

    With this problem, I also experienced that my spine on the neck area were lost stability, and got an unusual side curve, with some hand nerve “effect”, but since I support my back with some towels, I don’t feel the problem…

    Reply

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