Date: June 20, 2024

Author: Kateri Swavely-Verenna

In our current time of cell phones and laptops, we may often find ourselves hunched over our desks. Even if we are not necessarily hunched, we may be frequently looking down at our phones or our computer screens. As we age, this constant slouching or looking down can lead to a Dowager’s Hump. 

What is a Dowager’s Hump?

Dowager’s Hump, which is medically known as kyphosis, is an exaggerated, forward rounding of the upper back. This outward curvature of the upper back and compression of the front sections of the vertebrae cause a person to lean forward, slouching their shoulders and rounding their back, which in turn, creates a permanent hump on the upper back.

In addition to causing a person to look somewhat like the hunchback, Dowager’s Hump can also cause pain or stiffness in the back and shoulder blades, fatigue, tight hamstrings, and migraines. 

Dowager’s Hump Causes

The main cause of dowager’s hump is simply bad posture. You are probably already thinking about your posture as you read this, but if not, now is a good time to make sure you are sitting up straight and looking straight ahead. Some other causes of Dowager’s Hump can include:

  • Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become thinner, more brittle, and more prone to breaking. This is a particular risk for women, who are more susceptible to osteoporosis after menopause when their bodies become less able to absorb calcium. 
  • Degenerative disease of the spine can also cause a hump to form as the spine loses the ability to stay straight and hold up the head. 
  • Cushing’s disease, which causes the body to produce less cortisol, can occasionally see dowager’s hump as a side effect. 
  • Some medications can also lead to dowager’s hump. 

Dowager’s Hump Treatment

You may be wondering, are there Dowager’s Hump exercises you can do at home to treat or even prevent dowager’s hump? The answer is yes!

Strengthening the upper back and neck muscles is the best way to both prevent and treat dowager’s hump. Some of the exercises you can try are:

  • Chin tucks. You can do these sitting at your desk when you need a break. Looking straight ahead, you pull your chin backwards as far as you can. Hold for a few seconds, release your chin back to its normal position, and then repeat.
  • Scapular Squeezes. Squeezing your shoulders together can also be done in your chair and helps strengthen the upper back muscles. 
  • Doorway pectoral stretches. This exercise will not only help you stretch your chest, but also teach your shoulders to move backwards and not round forward. 

If you are experiencing Dowager’s Hump pain, your doctor may recommend that you work with a physical therapist. They can make sure you are doing all exercises correctly and offer additional suggestions to help you feel better. 

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Buffalo Hump vs. Dowager’s Hump

Buffalo hump, though it looks similar, is different from dowager’s hump because it is not bone related. Rather it is a build up of fat behind the neck. These can be caused by medications, some diseases that lead to fat build up, and obesity. Occasionally Buffalo Hump can lead to a Dowager’s Hump. 

No matter your age, when it comes to Dowager’s Hump, the best defense is a good offense. Lift your computer so you are looking straight ahead rather than down by using a computer stand on your desk or using a standing desk. Take breaks from your computer and your phone and look up, stretching your neck muscles. You can also use the stretches above to keep your neck and back muscles healthy.

Date: June 20, 2024

Author: Kateri Swavely-Verenna

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