If you, too, are guilty of living the constantly-hunched-over-a-digital-device life, you may notice a bump start to develop at the base of your neck, also referred to as a buffalo hump or dowager's hump. The most common cause of this is—you guessed it—poor posture.
"Not sitting correctly in front of your laptop/computer, or sitting hunched with your neck leaning forward when you are on your phone can cause the muscles in your neck to work differently and your shoulders to get hunched forward, developing the curved hump that you see with buffalo hump," says licensed chiropractor Suzanna Wong, DC. "The muscle at the back of the neck gets too long, and the muscle at the front of the neck becomes too short, which causes the hump."
The good news is that the damage can be undone with the help of a few stretches and moves performed on the reg. Below, Dr. Wong shares six exercises that help get rid of the hump at the base of the neck. She recommends doing the stretches daily. "Not only will it help to get rid of the hump, but you should feel relief in your whole upper back and neck," she says. As for how long it'll take to see the hump dissipate, that comes down to the hump's severity. If it's mild, two or three weeks of doing these stretches every day should do the trick. For other people, it may take longer. Either way, get your stretch on.
6 stretches and moves to help get rid of buffalo hump
1. Shoulder rolls
This is an easy one you can do anytime, anywhere. Start by standing or sitting up straight with your arms at your sides. Then roll your shoulders forward 12 times and backward 12 times. Pause for a quick rest, and then repeat the cycle three more times. "This helps to put your shoulders in the correct position by releasing tightness to the front and back of the shoulders, helping to correct your posture," Dr. Wong says.
2. Cat pose
If you practice yoga, you will be very familiar with cat pose. This move, Dr. Wong explains, helps release stiffness in the back and stretches out the chest leaving you in a more upright position. To do it, start on your hands and knees. On an exhale, tuck your tailbone under, drop your head, and round your back up toward the ceiling, pressing down through your palms as you do so. "Hold for a second and then repeat 12 times,” Dr. Wong says. “Once you have completed 12, take a short rest and repeat the process three times."
3. Chin tucks
Chin tucks are another easy move to add to your stretching routine. "This stretches out the muscle at the back of your neck whilst working the muscle at the front of your neck," Dr. Wong says. "To correct the hump, both need to be functioning correctly." The best part? You can do chin tucks while watching TV. Here’s how: "Drop your chin down and push it into your neck—think about giving yourself a double chin, then lift it back up. Repeat 12 times, take a short rest, and repeat the process three times."
4. Chin-to-shoulder stretch
Here is another yummy stretch you can do while relaxing on the couch. "Twist your neck around to the side and down until your chin almost touches your shoulder, then back to the middle," Dr. Wong says. "Do one side at a time 12 times before resting and repeating three times." Repeat on the opposite side. Doing this will help stretch your neck and trapezius muscles, which sit at the base of your neck above your shoulders, and help put your neck back in its correct position.
5. Head side-to-side stretch
Like the chin to shoulder stretch above, Dr. Wong says this bump-busting move involves moving your head around to the side, except you don't drop your chin down to your shoulder with this one. Bring your head back to the center and repeat 12 times, focusing on one side at a time. Rest for a beat, and then repeat the cycle three times. "This releases muscles to the side of your neck, which helps to align your neck properly," she says.
6. Massage the area with a ball
This last move requires a massage ball and is not technically a stretch, but Dr. Wong says it's an effective technique worth adding to the rotation. Plus, it feels good. "Lie down on the floor and place a massage ball to the side of your neck around your traps, [the] top part of your shoulder," she instructs. "This might be tender, but you want to lay on it for around 30 seconds before moving it to another spot.” A few minutes of this will help release tightness in the upper back, shoulder, and neck area resulting in a more upright posture.
Keep stretching out your head, neck, and shoulders with this Pilates routine:
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