Have you noticed the small fatty padded ‘knuckle’ that can stealthily appear at the very top of the back/neck area, as we age?
Often called a Buffalo or Dowager’s Hump its medical term is Kyphosis and in advanced cases results in a bent-over posture and neck and/or back pain.
However, let's focus on the beginning of a hump, to see if there is anything we can do to avoid its appearance in our lives. With society's screen obsession, and the accompanying bad posture, constant dropping of the head over an iPhone or slouching of the shoulders with head back viewing the computer screen for long periods of time, a 'hump' is no longer the exclusive domain of the older generation, it is now seen among the younger generation as there is increasingly a lack of variation in their movement patterns. Although many don't even notice it because how often do we look at ourselves in profile? Using two mirrors and take a peek right now.
With lockdown we may be on the computer, iPad, iPhone, television and sitting around far more than usual, reflect on your posture, how you move ... is there room for improvement?
The key is posture: it is essential to keep the spine straight and in correct alignment, all day, every day. The Alexander Technique is excellent to re educate the body and gently encourage it away from bad postural habits. If you don’t have a practitioner near you, what can you do yourself?
Strengthen the abdominal girdle so that the back is not having to do work it was not designed to do. Check your posture right now. No, don’t straighten up, how are you really sitting, what is the cold honest truth? Are you a true couch potato; slumped in the chair, tummy relaxed and protruding, back curved, neck bent and head thrown back as you focus through your glasses?
Here is a simple exercise and one you can do anywhere, anytime; in fact do it RIGHT NOW – suck your navel right in, try and get it to touch your spine.
Remember in the 60’s when we squeezed ourselves into tight jeans, lying on the floor with a coat hanger in the zip, slowly zipping it closed?
Well, that’s the feeling; breathing your tummy in as far as it will go to get into a pair of tight trousers.
Release it 50% and stay with that for as long as you can. In reality that is how our abdominal girdle should be engaged all the time.
You might not believe me, but if you could get that girdle working efficiently myriad back problems would magically disappear as the abdominal muscles do the job they were designed to do and the back can stop troubleshooting.
In addition, with improved posture the organs have more room in which to function, things begin to realign and space is created for energy, lymph and blood to flow more effectively.
Shhhh ...... the ultimate benefit of course, is you will immediately look slimmer and younger! I call this technique TUMMY TUCKING for this reason.
SKY STRINGING - another easy technique:
Place the heel of your right hand on your forehead with your fingers curled over your head.
Note where your middle finger lands and imagine a thin silver cord stretching from this precise point up to the sky.
The cord tightens and pulls you up off your heels.
Stay there for a second and then gently lower the heels keeping the head and neck in position.
Ensure you are ‘tummy tucking’, breathing normally and smiling.
Remove the hand from above the head and with the middle finger gently push the chin in/back towards the spine, only a tiny amount; this will have the effect of further correcting the position of the neck.
You are probably sitting or standing there feeling a little odd in this position but it is the posture you should be aiming for all the time.
Stagnation is your enemy. So keep everything moving in the neck and upper back by exercise, stretching and self-massage.
Massaging all along the occipital ridge is particularly effective as most of the superficial muscles in the upper back insert in that area and by massage it, one can release a lot of the tension in the entire area.
Pulling out from the neck vertebrae horizontally over the neck muscles using a firm pressure can disperse stagnation: start underneath the skull and pull out (on both sides either one at a time or both at once, see which feels more effective). Move down and inch and repeat. Keep moving down until you reach the area where a necklace would sit - hang off the shoulders for a few seconds and then bring your hand/s off and shake them.
Try hairbrush tapping - using a cheap plastic hairbrush, lightly tap the area with the spiky side of the brush, it is as if 100 little fingers are stimulating the area.
Can't quite imagine what I'm trying to explain? take a look at this little film I made:
Do a little self-reflexology and firmly massage all around the base of the big toe, down and around the bunion joint. This represents the neck and upper back area. Work both feet.
Work from within by keeping well nourished with a healthy diet. The chemicals in convenience and processed foods can play havoc with our bone health. Keep the joints well oiled with supplements such as Flaxseed Oil, Eskimo Oil or my favourite Udo’s Choice Oil capsules.
Water is key to everything, so drink lots to ensure you are not suffering from dehydration.
Hook up the two channels of energy that run vertically around your torso: place the middle finger of the right hand in the navel and the middle finger of the left hand on the 3rd eye in the space between your eyebrows. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, press in with both fingers and gently pull up. Stay in this ‘hook up’ position for 20 seconds as it will encourage the flow of energy up the spine. If energy flows through an area, health improves.
The scientist Dr Valerie Hunt always maintained that one needs to ensure the energy biofield is also healthy, it will impact the health of the physical. Make small figure 8's about 4 inches away from the neck area in whatever direction, size or speed you feel drawn to.
When you are doing any of these tips, remember to SMILE, it makes a difference as does TELLING THE BODY what you want it to do. E.g. my posture is improving, my spine is realigning and returning to default. I'm stopping this hump in it's tracks!
We can never forget the non-physical, less mechanical aspects of any discomfort in our body. Emotionally, any physical stiffness can reflects stiffness in the mind: is a lack of mental mobility contributing to the problem? Quietly contemplate; are there any areas in your life, thinking or attitude where you are becoming too rigid and could benefit from you lightening up, being more flexible?
Bones are associated with Water Element which governs ‘fear’ in our lives; what are you fearful of? Confront it, pick it to pieces in your mind, it is often not as bad as we imagine. Let go of the fear and start believing that ‘all will be well’.
Yoga is a gentle yet effective way to spinal health.
Look over the left shoulder as far as you can, keeping the girdle engaged and posture correct.
Repeat on the right hand side.
Return your head to the centre
lower your right ear to your right shoulder [don’t cheat and lift the shoulder].
Repeat on the left side.
Hold all these movements for a minimum of 10 seconds.
End by letting the head fall forward and slowly rolling it around to the left, back to centre and then around to the right, returning to centre.
Lift it up slowly. [never, ever throw your head straight back, it can result in injury].
Obviously do not attempt any form of neck exercise if you are injured in that area, always check with your Doctor first.
Finally, when I was a schoolgirl we were made to walk around the classroom with a book balanced on our heads – sounds very Victorian doesn’t it but you know, they had some pretty good ideas.
Try it right now and watch your posture instantly improve – think of how straight and upright native women can appear when carrying bundles on their heads.
Try and get up out of the chair and walk around the room with the book balancing.
When you are sitting at the computer, keep a book on your head to prevent you slipping down into damaging posture.
We should be in good posture all the time, not just a couple of minutes a day. So, place ‘post it notes’ around your home, office and car and every time you notice one, do one of the techniques , over time you will begin to re-educate and reprogramme your body into flexibility and strength – it is never too late to start.... in fact, TUMMY TUCK RIGHT NOW!
 ‘Dignified older lady’ is the definition of Dowager, which I think is rather charming.
Here is a selection of short videos that give you some different options for self care - take a look, try out and choose the one exercise that seems to suit you and then DO IT for 21 days and evaluate any improvement and a lessening of this common postural distortion. I particularly like the first one... he explains the YWLT sequence. What is YWLT? watch the video !