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What is a Dowager's Hump?

A buffalo hump refers to a thick layer of fat cells that accumulate at the base of the neck and can be a precursor of Dowager's Hump. Dowager’s Hump is an excess curvature at the base of the neck. It is often referred to as hunchback or hyper-kyphosis. This increased curvature can be a result of many conditions depending on the age of the patient. Initial symptoms may include fatigue, brain fog, headaches, or neck pain. If left untreated dowager's hump can cause neck pain, headaches, migraines, upper back pain, arthritis, and other symptoms if not addressed properly.

Causes of a dowager’s hump in older populations include osteoporosis and compression fracture. This is when the vertebral body height is diminished and the front portion of the vertebra collapses. Other causes are chronic inflammation and Cushing's Syndrome which is a disorder involving extremely high levels of the cortisol hormone. Swelling in the spine from a poor diet, chemical toxins, and emotional stress can also pool at the base of the neck leading to a buffalo hump. But the leading cause of Dowager’s Hump is increased curvature of the thoracic spine. The cervical curve should measure between 40-45 degrees and the thoracic curvature should be under 50 degrees. When these curves are out of normal range it causes significant stress to the spine, soft-tissue, and causes a stooped forward posture. Another common finding includes forward head posture which is when your head travels too far forward. The combination of anterior head carriage and increased kyphotic angle often result in a Dowager's Hump.

Causes of Dowager’s Hump:

Compression or Wedge Fractures

Forward Head Posture


Tight pectoralis muscles

High system Inflammation

Cushing's Syndrome

Tips to Prevent Dowager’s Hump

Make Posture a Priority

Get Adjusted Regularly

Stretch Pectoralis Muscles

Foam Roller Stretches

Limit or avoid Inflammatory foods

Most of the time this can be reversed if it is postural related. Treatment should include chiropractic care, stretching and strengthening exercises, and possible X-rays for diagnostic purposes. Diet modification is sometimes recommended to reduce inflammation in the body. Spinal curvature can be restored with appropriate and consistent treatment and home care. We work with our patients one on one to provide chiropractic care, postural corrections, rehabilitation exercises, and patient education.


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