Buffalo Hump

What is Buffalo Hump?

So you noticed a lump or “hump” at the back of your neck, and are wondering what it is? Well, you’ve come to the right place to get this sorted out. We’ll go through the most likely causes of that neck hump, what you can do to treat it, and exercises you can start today to make a difference immediately!

Let’s start with the most basic definition of a buffalo hump. It is fat lump that is located in the posterior (back) aspect of the neck. It is extremely common in overweight individuals.

Causes of Buffalo Hump

Buffalo Hump is slightly more common in women than men.  There are many reasons for why one could develop a Buffalo Hump. One of which is a change in the level of hormones in your body specifically referring to cortisol. However, important to note that there is also estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone that can be a potential cause in regards to hormone fluctuations.

I want to mainly focus on Cortisol however as it is the most common hormone imbalance that leads to Buffalo hump formation. Cortisol is affected due to a condition affecting the pituitary gland - this is the gland responsible for cortisol production - called Cushing's disease. Important to note that there is also something called Cushing’s syndrome which just refers to the fact that your body is producing high levels of cortisol. Cushing’s disease on the other hand is high levels of cortisol due to something called a pituitary adenoma or enlargement of the pituitary gland causing excess cortisol production.  One of the main characterizations of Cushing's is fat deposition at the base of the neck.

The cortisol hormone is a very integral hormone of the human body. Some of its functions include: Increasing your blood pressure, being a role in insulin and sugar function in your body, inflammation control, and even impacting bone formation.

So what are symptoms to look out for: 

  • Weight gain above your waste
  • Increased Acne
  • Irregular Menstrual Cycles
  • Thinning bones and weak muscles

** Reminder: Please speak to your Doctor in regards to your cortisol level and other medical information in this blog post**

Other causes for a hump behind your shoulders could be long term steroid use or another medication use as well.

Buffalo Hump vs. Forward Head

Forward head is when you carry your head out in front of your body which can easily be mistaken for a buffalo hump. This is merely a positional defect in your posture that is causing it to appear as if you have a buffalo hump. A true buffalo hump is an actual fat pad on the back of your neck though.  

An individual with a forward head can still have problems due to the poor posture in their neck thus leading to headaches and shoulder pain.  

How Buffalo Hump Affects Your Posture

For every degree your head is out in front and out of line with the rest of your spine, up to an extra 5-10 lbs of pressure can be loaded onto your neck!  Why is that important? Because eventually that extra load that is placed on your cervical spine will eventually cause your posture to become deformed and lead to that boney prominence that we see in pictures. A buffalo hump displaces your alignment causing unnecessary load onto your back.

How to fix Buffalo Hump

In order to treat Buffalo Hump we need to first address what the underlying issue is that is causing it. Is it forward head posture that is causing it? If so, then this is a posture issue. This needs to be resolved with efforts to correct your posture. Refer to our Guide To Good Posture. If this is truly Buffalo hump due to fat deposit then it is highly recommended to seek your physician and address how to resolve this. In some cases, cosmetic surgery can remove the fat deposit. However, unless the cause is also treated, the hump may return.

If the hump is a side effect of a prescription medication, talk to your doctor about changing your dosage or switching treatments. Never stop taking a prescribed medication without your doctor’s permission.

If your hump is the result of obesity, a diet and exercise regiment will surely help.

Prevent Getting Buffalo Hump

There is no guaranteed way to prevent a hump from forming. However, depending on the cause of it- it can be prevented.

If the hump is due to obesity – then exercising at least 30 minutes every day and changing your diet will help in preventing excess fat deposit.

If the hump is due to poor posture – a posture brace / corrector will help or routine posture exercises.

Complications of Getting Buffalo Hump

Most complications of developing a buffalo hump will arise from the will come from the disease it self that is causing the condition. Refer to the causes section of this blog to see the effects of high cortisol etc.

Another toll that a buffalo hump can take on a person is the physical appearance of it causing stress and anxiety in the individual. No one likes having a hump like appearance and the appearance of one is bound to make one self- conscious.

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