man with a hunched posture who should straighten his back

Straighten your arched back: 6 tips from the physiotherapist (exercises)

Article reviewed and approved by Dr. Ibtissama Boukas, physician specializing in family medicine 

It is often said that it is better to straighten your back to avoid lower back pain. Naturally, you then look for exercises to reduce your kyphosis (arched back)? 

What is certain is that straightening your back will make you look more elegant (think of ballet dancers in particular!). On the other hand, the link between posture and back pain is surprisingly more complex than you might imagine.

In the following article, we clarify the link between your posture and your back pain (you will be surprised, I warn you!), before explaining to you how straightening your back can improve your condition. We also include corrective exercises, as well as tips for integrating good postural practices into daily life.

Misconceptions about straightening your back

Many still believe that poor posture is the main cause of back pain. Or that any muscle or bone imbalance (dorsal kyphosis, lordosis, Scoliosis, etc.) would be responsible for your pain.

It's a myth!

At this stage, no scientific research studying the relationship between posture and low back pain could not come to the clear conclusion that a slouched posture was responsible for back pain. It is the same for the length of the lower limbs. Or the degree of kyphosis or lumbar lordosis.

man having a slouched posture in front of his computer
If you think your bad posture is THE cause of your back pain, you're wrong.

You want to know the factors often correlated with low back pain in studies? the sleep, stress, lack of physical exercise, cigarette, job satisfaction, and even the level of education according to some studies!

Why then straighten his back?

I can understand your confusion. You have always believed that your "poor posture" was THE culprit of your back pain. And you've often been told (doctors and therapists included!) that it is.

You will also tell me that you notice relief from your pain when you straighten your back, or when you "correct your posture." Besides, your back pain may have worsened since you spend more time at work (for those who have a sedentary job, I mean!).

Yes, slouching can sometimes lead to pain in your back, shoulders, middle back ou between the shoulder blades. But this is not necessarily due to the fact that this posture causes herniated discs, Scoliosis, lumbar arthritis, degeneration or other injury.

Besides, I guarantee that even if you sat very straight all day, you would still develop back problems over time.

Why? Because the problem is not the "bad" posture, but rather the ABSENCE of movement caused by prolonged posture, thephysical inactivity, and sedentary work.

back pain from lack of exercise
It's the time spent in a sitting position, even more than poor posture as such, that is really responsible for your back pain!

You see, the seated posture is often associated with a forward projection of the head, a rolling of the shoulders, and a hunched back. In this context, straightening your back will get you out of the previous posture, which will help the body to stay active (with the added bonus of increased blood circulation, tissue oxygenation, joint lubrication, and so on! ).

This is exactly the reason why it is important to straighten up regularly. In the following sections, I show you exercises to straighten your back, as well as 6 tips for integrating this good practice into your daily life.

How to straighten your back?

Let us recall the posture often decried as being bad:

  • head thrown forward
  • rolled shoulders
  • slouched back
  • sagging lower back

Now that we understand why these prolonged postures are not ideal, let's apply the following concept: To rebalance the forces applied to the tissues, it is interesting to do the reverse movements to which the body found itself "fixed".

straight posture straighten your back

With this in mind, the first option would be to use a lower back support. These supports allow a natural straightening of the vertebral column via an increase in lordosis, as well as a natural support of the lumbar region.

They come in different shapes and textures, and can be useful if used sparingly. On the other hand, as mentioned, this passive strategy will certainly correct the sagging posture, but not the main source of the problem.

For this reason, it is important to move as much as possible to keep the spine moving. Here is a series of exercises to straighten the spine, explore new joint amplitudes, and somehow correct the prolonged postures adopted in a seated position by many.

They are ideal if you have a desk job, especially because you can do them regularly during your breaks (they require no equipment!).

Cervical retraction

  1. Sit down keeping your head straight.
  2. Retract the chin horizontally towards you, so as to create a “double chin”. (Avoid tilting your head too much downwards by keeping your gaze horizontal).
  3. Return to the initial position, making sure to avoid throwing your head too far forward.
  4. Repeat ten times, adjusting the range of motion to your comfort.
woman performing cervical retraction

Back extension

  1. Sit down with your head and back straight.
  2. Grab the back of your neck with your hands, keeping your elbows pointing forward (as shown).
  3. In the same movement, bring the elbows up, the back extended and the head backwards.
  4. Slowly return to the initial position.
  5. Repeat ten times, taking breaks as needed.
man performing seated back extension

Scapular retraction

  1. Sit down with your head and back straight. Bring your arms forward.
  2. In the same movement, bring the arms and shoulders back, squeezing the shoulder blades for 3 seconds.
  3. Return to the initial position.
  4. Repeat ten times, taking breaks as needed.
  5. Progression: Add resistance using a therapeutic rubber band. 
woman performing seated scapular retraction

Repeated standing extension (from the McKenzie method)

  1. Stand against the wall, and put your arms at 90 degrees so that your elbows are against the wall. Spread your legs at shoulder height.
  2. In the same movement, bring the pelvis forward by bending the lower back.
  3. Return to starting position.
  4. Repeat about ten times, making sure to go gradually, and to monitor your symptoms.
  5. This is an exercise taken from the McKenzie method. If you observe favorable results, I advise you to consult a specialized McKenzie therapist so that he can progress this exercise according to your specific condition.


mckenzie lumbar extension standing against the wall

6 tips to straighten your back

Well, straightening your back is not rocket science. The previously mentioned exercises will definitely help you straighten your spine. The problem is that we always forget to correct our posture, or more exactly get out of the previous posture to keep our body moving.

Here are 6 tips that will encourage you to straighten up during the day. In the long term, these good habits will have a positive effect on your back pain, in addition to making you look more elegant! :

1. Set an alarm

This advice I often repeat to my patients who suffer from back pain. Put an alarm on your phone (preferably in the form of a vibration so as not to annoy your colleagues) to remind you to change position every 1-2 hours.

Yes, I know, we are sometimes focused on our job, or even in the middle of a meeting, but the health of your back should come first! Take advantage of this well-deserved break to stretch your legs or take a sip of water.

posture alarm straighten your back

2. Put on a bracelet

Here is an extremely simple trick to remind you to straighten up. Wear a bracelet that you don't usually wear (let's call it a “postural bracelet”!). Every time you see it during the day, you will need to pay close attention to your posture, and change the position (for example by straightening your spine).

For the tech savvy, there are even special watches available on Amazon that regularly remind you to change your posture, straighten up, or even get up from your chair.

  • Swiss ball: Yes yes, these large bouncing balls are used by many employees to maintain dynamic and stimulating sitting, in addition to constantly encouraging you to straighten your back.

Well, some therapists unfortunately attribute miracle and exaggerated properties to them (like disinhibiting a muscle or activating circulation). This is not entirely true.

proprioceptive tapini encouraging straightening of the back

On the other hand, these bands can provide interesting proprioceptive feedback. Let me explain. If the bands are placed in a certain way, you may feel a slight tension when the shoulders roll up, or if the back sags. This can then encourage us to straighten up, and serve as a postural reminder.

infographic on tips to straighten your back


So! I hope you now understand that back pain isn't just about keeping your spine straight. Admittedly, straightening your back has several benefits, but never forget that the most important thing is to avoid inactivity and static postures.

The best posture? This is the one that will take you out of the previous one! Remember to move regularly during your working days (for example by applying the exercises and tips mentioned in this article!). And above all, remember that...

Movement is life!!!

Are you looking for solutions to relieve your pain?

Discover the opinion of our team of health professionals on various products available on the market (posture, sleep, physical pain), as well as our recommendations.

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