Dowager's Hump Complete Guide

What Is Dowagers Hump?

Dowager's hump is known as the hump-like projection seen on the back of people. In essence, it a protrusion that is easily visible around your upper back/neck region. 

Do I have a Dowagers Hump?

Before you fret over thinking if you have Dowagers Hump vs. another cause let’s take a look at the different feature characteristics of Dowagers Hump such as:

  • Enlarged protuberance  – This is in essence the “Dowager’s Hump” that we like to call. It is clearly visible in the picture above. 
  • Forward Posture – As you can see from the above picture, the head is usually displaced forward in what we like to call hyperkyphosis.
  • Hyper extension of the mid thoracic region – As mentioned above, since your head is in a forward posture, the compensation mechanism is for the thoracic aspect of the spine to be hyperextended.
  • Loss of spinal curve in your cervical region – Due to the changes in your spine from compensation mechanisms, your spine loses its natural curvature.

Anatomy Of Dowagers Hump


The anatomy of Dowager’s Hump is important to visualize and go through as it helps in diagnosing it. As you can see from the above picture the head is the forward position and the hump is easily seen as well. When assessing your self for Dowager’s Hump, take a picture of your self from the side in order to see if your picture compares to the above. Also don’t be afraid to palpate/feel your neck and “hump” to see if you can feel the curvature in your spine that resembles the above.

Symptoms of Dowagers Hump

Here are just some of the symptoms and implications of Dowager’s Hump:

  • Aesthetics. This one is obvious and the most frustrating for patients.
  • Chronic pain: Due to the head being in a less than ideal position, this causes stress on the neck and the rest of the body which leads to patients suffering from chronic pain. 
  • Increased risk of complications – Patient can develop conditions such as arthritis, disc herniations, nerve impingement, muscle spasms, poor posture, and more. 

Causes of Dowagers Hump

There are multiple reasons as to why one would develop Dowager’s hump. Let’s start with the most common causes and then the more rarer. The most common causes

 

  1. Poor Posture

    Believe it or not the most common cause of Dowagers Hump is poor posture. Poor posture can be due to many different reasons ranging from developing a poor habit, trauma, scoliosis, spinal fractures, etc. Poor posture is also one of the most correctable causes of Dowagers Hump.  Why is poor posture deleterious to one’s health? Well, besides being a cause of Dowager’s Hump, it cause over compensation which leads to over stretching of your spinal musculature and ligaments. This causes the entire body to be in a state of dysfunction. This can indeed impact everyday activities and livelihood. 

     

    2. Osteoporosis

    Osteoporosis is one the most debilitating conditions affecting people globally. In fact, did you know that almost 44 million worldwide over the age of 50 suffer from Osteoporosis?! For those that don’t know , Osteoporosis is a progressive condition in which bone loss and breakdown occurs which leads to numerous conditions. One of these conditions is Dowager’s Hump. Osteoporosis essentially leads to bone breakdown which weakens your spine and leads you more prone to compression or wedge fractures leading to lordosis of the spine . Thus it is important to prevent this by supplementing your diet with appropriate Vitamin D, Calcium and checking with your primary care provider to check if your thyroid levels, parathyroid levels, etc. are all in check. 

     

    3. Fractures

    Fractures, whether compression fractures or wedge fractures, causes obvious harm to the spinal column which leads to each spinal column adjusting appropriately leading to a deviation in the spinal curvature. All this compensation puts pressure on other parts of the spine leading to pathological conditions such as Dowagers Hump. Radiographic evidence is a key part in diagnosing these type of fractures and people should see their primary care doctor first immediatey if suspected. 

Treatment of Dowagers Hump

Treatment options for Dowager’s Hump varies on the cause. For example, if the cause of Dowager’s Hump for you is Osteoporosis then treatment is mainly revolved around prevention. Although, bone loss is inevitable as we age we can definitely prevent worsening. Making sure we have an adequate amount of Vitamin D, Calcium, etc. is a vital component to the prevention process. 

For those with Vertebral Fractures however, treatment is a little bit different. Depending on the state of the vertebral fractures as well as if you are a surgical candidate, treatment can include a procedure called Vertebroplasty. Vertebroplasty is a procedure that involves injecting cement to your bones in an attempt to stabilize your spine. It is highly dependent on the type of fracture, duration of the fracture, among other conditions. Speak to your Primary Care Physician to determine the severity of your spinal fracture and options. Another similar procedure is Kyphoplasty. 

If the reason for your poor posture is poor posture then it is advisable to look below at the select exercises we have for you. Other ways to correct poor posture is through a posture brace, which you can visit bestposturebrace.com to see which one is best for you. 

An interesting note to mention is about a recent study that was done to see how Yoga affects patients with DDD (disc degenerative disease). The conclusion of this pilot study reported possible association between the long-term practicing of yoga and a lessening of age-related disc degeneration. 

Self- Exercises

Exercises to correct dowagers hump

 

#1 Foam Roller Stretches 

The use of a foam roller to to help correct Dowager’s Hump is underestimated. A simple exercise you can do is the following:

Step 1: Place foam roller so that it runs lengthwise with your spine.

Step 2: Rest on the roller keeping your head off the edge of the roller as you roll up and down on it.

Step 3: Allow your self to relax your arms and let your entire body weight onto the foam roller allowing it to completely stretch your neck muscles. 

#2 Self- Stretches

There are many self-stretches one can do. Majority of the self-stretches revolve around stretching the pectoralis major and minor muscles. These muscles end up getting hypertonic, tight, and thus cause the poor posture we see sometimes in patients with Dowager’s Hump. Go ahead and stretch these muscles by doing something as simple as the following which incorporates a door.

Step 1: Find a door way and stand in the middle.

Step 2: Place your arms on the edges of the door and lean forward to stretch the muscles.

 

Prognosis

“How long does it take to cure my hump??”

This is sometimes the most asked question asked among patients. The truth is – it is dependent on patient to patient.  It is dependent on factors such as how committed one is to treatment exercises, patient co-morbidities, etc. 

There is NO over night cure. It take’s time and patient to defeat Dowager’s Hump. Keep at it, and don’t stop. 


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