What is the back hump? A back hump or rounded shoulders is technically referred to as Kyphosis, it comes in different severities, but is basically a rounding of the back between the shoulder blades, just under the neck.
What does it have to do with your shoulders? Something, everything, nothing. People often confuse a back hump with rounded shoulders, but they are not the same thing. One can affect the other, but they can also occur individually. However, what they have in common is the pain, people with both rounded shoulders and a back hump will often describe that they have shoulder pain, pointing to the area between their shoulder blades.
So what is going on? Let’s take a quick look at the anatomy;
Our spine naturally is made up of a series of curves, and a small amount of Kyphosis is normal, but with poor posture, this curve can become exaggerated and we see problems arise.
Rounded shoulders can come directly from the shoulder joint and may not affect the curvature of the back, the muscles at the front of the shoulders (the pecs) may tighten and rotate the head of the humerus (top of the arm) forwards and inwards.
On a side note, a severe type of kyphosis is called Scheuermann's Disease, the causes of which are unclear but it is assumed there is a hereditary component, it is not caused by posture and so we are not taking this into consideration for this article.
Why are we seeing an explosion of both problems?
With the advent of the smartphone and a generation brought up with TV, computers, and video games taking up the majority of their leisure time, both excessive kyphosis and inwardly rotating shoulders are becoming more and more common.
Children and adults are spending hours hunched over the laptop or iPad or holding their phones down by their lap and leaning forward whilst scrolling through the screen. While shoulders are shifted forward, held tightly and narrowly while we type away at the little device with our thumbs.
Imagine a 20kg+ bowling ball on the end of your neck, hanging forward - this is your head in ‘device position’. Your body needs to adjust to this weight to ensure you don’t fall forward.
As we know, the pecs are part of the shoulder girdle and these are pulling your shoulders forward, causing the back to raise or look rounded.
What can be done?
Here’s a couple of tips and hacks;
Stop using devices (unlikely)
Reduce the time spent on devices
When on a handheld device hold it up in front of your face, rather than bending your head over the screen
When using a laptop, whenever possible add a lifter and separate keyboard to bring the screen up to a more ergonomic height
Increasing movement is also a great way to prevent these shoulder issues, I love yoga for increasing our range of motion; you spend a lot of time with your arms over your head or out by your sides
Get adventurous and start using more of your bodies full range of motion - some other great hands overheads activities include rock climbing, trapeze, handstand classes, and pilates
Using the Massage Ball or Spikey Ball in the pectoral muscles will release the tightness that can cause the shoulders to roll forward. This in turn will assist with posture. Try using the spikey ball at the start of the day to open up your shoulders and then again at the end of the day. If you are someone who sits at a computer all day, this is a great hack
during the day to get you up from your desk as well.
Need a little extra help?
Massage can provide a greater level of release than you can find with self-release techniques. So if you are feeling tightness in your shoulders or pain between your shoulder blades in your upper back make an appointment for a full assessment and treatment.
What can massage do?
Massage provides soft tissue release and can be targeted to provide relief for symptoms you are presenting with. At muscle medicine, we will conduct a thorough assessment and while working to provide you immediate relief, we will also identify the cause of the symptoms and work to eliminate these. This approach creates sustainable results and combined with our at-home exercises helps prevent the issue from recurring.
Our therapists will provide you with some at-home exercises, breathing techniques, and postural cues to make sure the benefits of the treatment don't end when you leave our studio.
Looking after your body with small day to day awareness and actions can make a huge difference to your longer-term mobility.