Our spines are naturally curved like an “S” shape to a slight degree, with your lower back curved inward. When your lumbar spine has too much of a curve, it becomes a problematic condition known as hyperlordosis.
Have you noticed the curve of your lower back causing your stomach to thrust forward?
If it isn’t causing you back pain already, it could cause back pain for you down the line.
An exaggerated inward curve of your lower spine causes the reciprocal outward curve of your upper spine, resulting in your shoulders hunching forward and chest collapsing inward.
Addressing hyperlordosis is critical for avoiding back pain and achieving good posture and skeletal alignment.
Thankfully, it’s a treatable condition you can correct with lifestyle changes and exercises.
If you suspect you may have hyperlordosis, keep reading to find out what causes it, how to tell if you have it and what you can do to fix it.
Why is Hyperlordosis a Problem?
When your spine isn’t achieving the length it’s designed to have because it’s excessively curved, you end up with compression in your muscles, joints and spinal disks.
Over time, this causes pain and raises your risk for spinal issues and joint degeneration.
Hyperlordosis tends to cause hunching in your upper back to counteract the exaggerated curve in your lower spine.
In addition to poor posture, this can cause upper back, shoulder and neck pain, and even headaches or migraines.
Due to the cascading consequences of hyperlordosis, nipping it in the bud and preventing it from is critical for preventing a host of problems it causes.
How Do You Test for Hyperlordosis?
It’s fairly easy to tell if you have hyperlordosis. Keep in mind, that hyperlordosis can manifest in varying degrees of severity. Obviously, the more your spine is arched, the easier hyperlordosis is to spot.
You can check simply by looking at your side profile in a mirror or at a picture of you standing in your neutral upright posture.
Or, do your own test for hyperlordosis by lying on your back or standing with your back against a wall.
In either position, your legs should be straight and shoulder width apart. With your back relaxed, slip your hand in the space between the small of your back and the wall or floor. The width of your hand (with your hand flat) should just fit in this space.
If you can fit more than one hand in the space, you likely have hyperlordosis.
What Causes Hyperlordosis?
Hyperlordosis develops slowly over time. These are the typical factors involved:
Too Much Sitting
In a seated position, your lower back muscles contract in order to stabilize and support your upper body.
Because your legs are forward instead of in alignment with your spine, the spine adjusts by curving. Sitting for a long time, such as at a job that requires extended periods of sitting at a desk, raises your risk for developing hyperlordosis because the lumbar muscles tighten and keep the spine in the same curved position when you stand up.
The muscles involved that become overly contracted are your erector spinae group, quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi and psoas.
While some of your muscles are too tight in the case of hyperlordosis, others are too loose.
A curved lower spine means your abs are in a stretched position. Your abs should be helping to support a straight spinal column.
When they’re adequately contracted, they oppose the lower back muscles so they don’t remain tight.
Hyperlordosis can also develop when your pelvis is misaligned.
If your pelvis is tilted forward (otherwise known as an anterior pelvic tilt, your lower spine will curve to compensate for the misalignment so that you can stand upright. A common cause of pelvic tilting in women is wearing high-heels for long periods.
However, an anterior pelvic tilt can happen to anyone who sits for extended periods. In a seated position your hip flexors are contracted and your glutes are lengthened, and when these opposing muscle groups stay like this it affects your pelvic alignment.
A Hunched Upper Back
Long hours typing at a computer with your arms in front of you can cause the rounding of your upper back and the inward collapse of your chest.
With your chest muscles contracted and your opposing upper back muscles lengthened this muscle imbalance over time trains your upper spine to curve outward.
Naturally, your lower spine will compensate for this by curving inward so that you can remain upright while sitting or standing.
Excess Belly Weight
When your body’s storing excess fat in your middle region, the weight of your belly can pull your lower back into a C curve. Without strong abs, the lower back has to support the extra weight, and the lumbar spine bends to relieve the strain on these muscles.
During pregnancy, women can develop hyperlordosis because the abs are lengthened around the expanded belly and the spine adjusts to the weight of the baby .
Though this is natural, it should be corrected after pregnancy to avoid pain and other problems caused by misalignment.
How to Fix Your Hyperlordosis
Thankfully, hyperlordosis is not only preventable, but also reversible.
In many cases, it’s developed due to specific lifestyle factors that can be changed. Often, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising on a regular basis can improve your posture and reduce lower back pain.
If you suspect wearing high heels or extended periods of sitting are playing a role, take frequent breaks from these activities so that your muscles aren’t locked into positions for long periods.
Also, you can actively adjust your spinal alignment over time by doing exercises and stretches that correct muscle imbalances and this is what our main focus will be.
Essentially, you need to tighten muscles that are too loose by strengthening them, and loosen their opposing muscle groups that are too tight by stretching and massaging them.
In the last section, we discussed the causes of hyperlordosis and specifically which muscle groups are affected as a result of hyperlordosis.
If you’ve already forgotten what was said, don’t worry, here is a summary of the effects and what needs to be done to fix hyperlordosis:
- Tight latissimus dorsi (lats) – Since these large muscles run all the way down your back, when these get tight they can pull on your back and spine resulting in the curved arch in your back. Stretching the lats will help restore the natural curve in your back.
- Tight psoas (hip flexors) – The Psoas is a hip flexor muscle which attaches behind your lower spine and attaches somewhere around the front of the pelvis. When this gets too tight it pulls on your lower back causing your lower back to arch. By creating length in the hip flexor the pull on the lower back should also lessen.
- Weak Abs/Core – Strengthening your abs and core will help restore the stretched position your abs are currently in as a result of hyperlordosis. A stronger core will help pull the front of your pelvis out of its forward tilt and reduce the arch in your lower back.
- Anterior pelvic tilt – All the attributes mentioned above (tight lats, psoas and weak abs) are contributors to an anterior pelvic tilt. In addition, strengthening your glutes and hamstrings will help fix an anterior pelvic tilt which is almost always present with hyperlordorsis.
These are the main fixes we will focus on in this article.
If correctional exercises do not alleviate the symptoms of hyperlordosis, be sure to seek medical advice.
Corrective Exercises and Stretches to Correct Hyperlordosis
In a 2018 study, researchers measured the effect certain exercises had on lumbar spine curvature, back muscle strength and chronic lower back pain.
The study’s participants did a specific 60-minute workout 3 days a week for 3 months. It consisted of 8 strength training exercises that target the muscles supporting your spine’s alignment.
By the end of the study, the results showed increased lumbar strength and flexibility, and a reduction in lower back pain.
Let’s go through the exact exercises the lumbar stabilization workout in this study included and how to do them.
Keep in mind that each exercise challenges the muscles that stabilize your spine and keep it straight.
To benefit from these exercises, you need to force your body into the correct alignment and fight the urge to let your lower back give into its comfortable curve.
These spine-stabilizing muscles will start to get tired when you do these exercises, which can cause you to lose the correct form. Do as many reps as you can of each exercise in proper form. When you can no longer maintain a straight spine while doing the exercise, you should rest.
If you’re recovering from an injury or surgery, or if you have a medical condition affecting your spinal alignment, be sure to seek professional guidance before attempting any exercises.
Strengthening Exercises to Fix Hyperlordosis
We’ll first focus on strengthening the weak muscles. The main focus is on strengthening the core. Squats are included to help strengthen the glutes and reverse the frontal tilt of the pelvis.
Basic sit-ups can help retrain your spine and correct hyperlordosis, as long as they’re performed in proper form. They work by strengthening your abs and correcting an anterior pelvic tilt.
Here’s the form you need to be in:
- Lie on your back and bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor.
- Place your hands behind your head to support your neck.
- Tuck your tailbone in so that it’s in line with your spine (the opposite of an anterior pelvic tilt)
Tighten your abs and lift your chest to come into a sit-up position, then slowly lower it back down with control by squeezing your abs.
Supermans work the back side of your torso, and also help you support your spine with core strength. Like with the sit-ups, supermans need to be done in correct alignment to reap the benefits.
- Lie on your stomach with your arms up overhead.
- Actively rotate your pelvis so that it’s flush with the floor instead of tilted.
- Tighten and squeeze your abs to help you support a straight spine.
- Raise your arms, legs and chest off the floor simultaneously.
- Hold for 2 seconds and then slowly lower everything down to complete one rep.
Quadruped Arm and Leg Raise
This is another core strengthening exercise.
- Get on your hands and knees in a “table top” position, with your palms on the floor and your knees at a 90-degree angle. Your knees should be in line with your hips, and your hands should be shoulder-width apart and in line with your shoulders.
- Achieve the correct form by tucking your tailbone under so that there’s no curve in your spine. Your chest should also be open so that your upper back isn’t hunching.
- Lift one arm straight up, in line with your head and your spine. At the same time, lift the opposite leg and straighten it, so that it’s aligned with your spine.
- Lower the arm and leg, and repeat with the opposite sides to complete one rep. Be careful not to lose your form and let your spine curve.
When done right, squats can help correct an anterior pelvic tilt that causes hyperlordosis.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward.
- Tuck your tailbone under and use your core muscles to straighten your spine as much as possible.
- Lower down into a seated position in an imaginary chair. Your back should stay straight and your chest upright. Keep your weight on the back of your heels and engage your glutes to help you balance. When you’re all the way down, your thighs should be parallel to the floor, and your knees and ankles should be in a straight line.
- Push through your heels to return to the starting position. Squeeze your glutes once you’re standing as you tilt your pelvis so that your tailbone aligns with your spine.
Plank exercises are all about strengthening the stabilizing muscles in your core by maintaining a flat back and straight spine in a suspended position. This exercise also helps strengthen the glutes.
- Sit with your legs straight in front of you and lean back. Your back should be at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Tuck your tailbone in and open your chest so that your spine is in a straight line.
- Place your hands by your sides with your palms on the floor, forming a straight line down from your shoulders.
- Lift your hips while supporting your weight on your hands and heels. Tighten your core and glutes, keeping your body straight.
- Hold the position for 10 seconds and slowly lower down to complete one rep.
Holding a forearm plank is a great way to challenge the muscles that keep your spine straight, as you hold a straight position in the air.
Follow these steps to get into the straightest position possible for your forearm plank:
- Assume the “tabletop” position with your hands and knees on the floor and your spine in a straight line.
- Drop down to your forearms, with your elbows in line with your shoulders and your hands extending straight in front of you.
- Keeping your spine in a straight line, lift your knees off the floor and push your feet back so that you’re on your forearms and the balls of your feet in a forearm plank.
- Align your neck with the rest of your spine by looking down and lengthening your neck.
- Fight the urge to let your hips lower, but don’t raise them too high so that they break your alignment. Aim to maintain a straight line from head to toe by squeezing your muscles abs and glutes.
- Lie on your right side with feet together, and support yourself on your right forearm, elbow in line with your shoulder.
- Tighten your abs, tuck in your pelvis and raise your hips straight upwards until your body forms one straight line from head to toe.
- Hold the position for as long as possible while maintaining your form.
- Repeat on the left side.
If you suspect an anterior pelvic tilt is to blame for your hyperlordosis, hip bridges will strengthen the muscles that keep your hips in a neutral alignment.
- Lie on your back and bend your knees, placing your feet flat on the floor a few inches from your buttocks. Place your arms alongside your body, with your palms facing down.
- Contract your glutes and lift your pelvis up until you have a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Hold for 10 seconds and slowly lower to complete one rep.
Stretches that Help Reduce Hyperlordosis
While you’re strengthening and tightening your core and buttocks, you also need to stretch and release the opposing muscles that are excessively tight.
Your hip flexors, lats and erector spinae muscles hold your spine in an excessively curved position when they’re constantly contracted from long periods of sitting.
Here are some stretches that help:
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
- Kneel with your left knee on the floor and your right leg bent at a 90-degree angle directly in front of you, so that you’re in a lunge position with your right knee directly over your ankle. Place your hands either on the sides of your right foot or on your right thigh to stabilize you.
- Keep your spine in a straight line by actively tucking your left hip under and squeezing your left glute so that your tailbone isn’t pointing upward. Lengthen your neck and look down at the floor to keep your neck aligned with your spine.
- Lean forward into your right hip as you feel the stretch in your right hip flexor.
- Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the left side.
Your latissimus dorsi muscles, or lats, are the largest muscle group on your back. When your lats are tight, which happens to many people, they pull on the pelvis and exaggerate the arch of your lower back.
Stretching your lats can prevent them from being excessively tight and prevent them from pulling on your back.
- Stand up straight, aligning your shoulders over your pelvis. Open your chest and tuck your tailbone in.
- Raise your hands overhead and hold your right wrist in your left hand
- Gently pull your right arm as you lean to your left side, feeling the stretch down the right side of your torso.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then come up and repeat on the other side.
Knees to Chest Stretch
Tucking your knees into your chest reverses the contraction of your lower back and stretches your erector spinae muscle group.
You can do it either lying on your back and hugging your knees into your chest, or you can do what’s known as “child’s pose” in yoga, which is the same position but face-down, with your knees on the floor and arms on the floor, reaching overhead.
How You Can Prevent Hyperlordosis from Reoccurring
There’s no point in doing all these corrective exercises and stretching if you do not fix your bad habits which caused it in the first place.
Maintaining a strong core and healthy weight go a long way in preventing hyperlordosis, and doing the stretches and exercises above help you achieve balanced muscle groups, meaning that no group becomes too contracted or loose relative to its opposing muscle group.
Another way to prevent hyperlordosis from developing is to take frequent breaks when sitting, so that your hip flexors can stretch out and your back muscles can relax.
If you feel that sitting too much is the main cause of your hyperlordosis there are a number of ergonomic solutions such as:
- Standing Desks – force you to stand instead of sit when you are working which helps prevent tightness in the hip flexors.
- Kneeling Chairs – Take the pressure off your spine whilst sitting thus reducing the excessive spinal curve.
- Stability Ball Chairs – Help keep your core and spine active thereby helping prevent hyperlordosis from occurring.
- Lumbar Chair Supports – Lumbar chair support are designed to help maintain a healthy curve in your lower back.
Take the time to stretch after sitting, or even use a self-massage device to release tight muscles.
By massaging the tight muscles, or performing myofascial release on them you may create further length in your muscles by removing trigger points.
Here are some more helpful products:
- Lower Back Stretchers – These are devices that you lie on which help create length in your lower back.
- Massage Balls – A massage ball if used correctly can help remove any trigger points which are causing chronic tightness in your lower back.
- Peanut Massage Ball – Peanut massage balls are great for running down your lower back to help massage and stretch out your lower back.
- Massage Chair Pads – Chair pads are electric devices that help massage your back when you are seated.
Correcting Your Posture and Reversing Hyperlordosis
Reversing hyperlordosis doesn’t happen overnight. It’s important to keep up with the exercises and stretches regularly to see results. You can do the stretches every day, and do the exercises 3 or 4 times a week.
In addition, you may want to add some extra exercises and stretches to your routine.
You may also find the following pages on our site useful:
- How to fix an anterior pelvic tilt
- Lower back stretches to help fix back pain
- How to strengthen your core
- Best hip flexor stretches
- How to stretch the quadratus lumborum
Measure your progress over time using the test against the floor or wall, or even by gaging the shape of your spine in the mirror.
Be sure to continue doing the stretches and exercises even after you’ve reversed your arched lower back, so that you can prevent it from developing again.