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What is Dowager’s Hump and How to Prevent It

No one ever said getting older was easy. Sometimes, it seems as if time likes to make the aging process as difficult as possible. That’s especially true when it comes to Dowager’s Hump — the non-medical term that refers to the stooped appearance of many older people, particularly women. The good news is that, in many cases, this condition that affects the upper back can be prevented.

What is Dowager’s Hump?

Dowager’s Hump is a forward bending of the spine. 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.

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Dowager’s Hump doesn’t just develop overnight. It may start out as a lesser condition known as a Buffalo Hump. Yet another non-medical term, this refers to a fatty deposit at the base of the neck resulting from a forward-leaning head posture.

Over time, this Buffalo Hump can morph into a more pronounced Dowager’s Hump as a result of micro compression fractures in the vertebra (stemming from too much leaning forward).

What Causes Dowager’s Hump?

There are a number of possible causes for a person developing Dowager’s Hump. Sometimes it is a result of severe osteoporosis — a disease that causes thinning of the bones. Women who have gone through menopause are at the highest risk of osteoporosis as their bodies can no longer absorb calcium as well as it did when they were younger.

The bone deformities that can come with osteoporosis cause the spine to curve which gives the appearance of a hump. This medical condition is called kyphoscoliosis.

Dowager’s Hump can also be caused by some medications. For example, those taking medications to treat AIDS might develop a curvature of the spine as a side effect.

In addition, a condition known as Cushing’s syndrome, which causes the body to produce too much cortisol, can also lead to Dowager’s Hump. However, this is a rare condition, so it is often not the underlying cause.

In most cases, however, the hump is caused by bad posture with having your head in a more forward position than it should be. This can be due to a person’s posture or leaning forward working on a computer or texting or reading on your cell phone. This leads to a build-up of calcium in the neck area which creates the hump.

Finally, long-term steroid use can also play a role in the development of this condition. Steroids can be found in medications such as those that treat asthma.

What Happens if a Dowager’s Hump is Untreated?

If left untreated, a person will begin to have pain in their shoulders and neck. Their chin will move closer to their ribcage and the end result can be spinal degeneration.

New muscles will come into play to help support your head as the normal muscles that perform this duty will no longer be able to do so. These new muscles will be put under constant strain from overuse. This leads to pain in the area, in addition to the physical deformity of the spine.

Can Dowager’s Hump be Treated?

Not only can Dowager’s Hump be treated, for some people, it can be cured altogether. There are also exercises you can do that will help you prevent the hump in the first place, and help reverse it once it has formed.One exercise that will help is the Hump Straightener. Instructions with images can be found here. Additional exercises that will help with this condition include:

  • Back extensions
  • Abdominal press
  • Lunges
  • Bridge
  • Quadruped

All of these exercises can be found here.

How Can Dowager’s Hump be Prevented?

Dowager’s Hump is preventable. There are a few ways you can look to avoiding this health problem altogether:

  • Up your calcium intake: Pre- and post-menopausal women should increase their daily calcium intake to 1,800 milligrams per day. Be sure to check with your doctor to make sure this dosage is safe and does not conflict with other medications.
  • Exercise: Weight-bearing exercises, such as strength training, can help to increase bone density over time. Additionally, yoga can also help encourage good posture and alignment — as well as flexibility.
  • A healthy diet: Making sure you eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help. Also, steer clear of soda, which can have a negative effect on your bone density due to phosphoric acid in some colas. Some doctors also believe caffeine can make bones porous, too.
  • Correct your posture: It’s never a bad idea to be mindful of your posture. Try not to slouch forward or round your shoulders, even when sitting at a keyboard or watching television on the couch.

If you have a Dowager’s Hump, you don’t have to suffer with it. Be sure to talk to your doctor so he or she can determine the cause and provide you with the best treatment options, and don’t forget these tips and exercises to help prevent and cure the condition, as well.

Do you know someone who deals with Dowager’s Hump? Have they started doing any of these exercises or anything else to help their condition? Have the exercises worked for them?

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