After years of working at your desk and leaning forward at your computer, you notice a bump at the base of your neck, making you look years older than you actually are. You may have developed a dowager’s hump; a condition which gets its name from the slightly rounded hunch you might see on an elderly woman.
Kyphosis, the medical term for dowager's hump, is caused by chronic hunching over; a posture that is very common with so many of us using computers nowadays. Over time, prolonged poor posture can cause an abnormal curve in the upper back and vertebrae, leading to the development of extra tissue in the lower neck area.
What Causes a Dowager’s Hump?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the most common type of dowager’s hump is postural kyphosis. Think about this; the human head is around 11 lbs on average. Over time, poor posture, including rounding your shoulders and sticking your chin out, will lead to the muscles and ligaments responsible for holding the neck and spine in place to be stretched. This stretching eventually can pull the vertebrae out of its normal position, causing a round shape in the spine.
Other possible causes include:
Scheuermann’s kyphosis - This type is named after the radiologist who first identified the condition. It happens when the vertebrae have a different shape.
Congenital kyphosis - Congenital means a condition you are born with. People who suffer from congenital kyphosis were born with a spine that did not develop correctly prior to birth.
Osteoporosis kyphosis - This is a compression fracture that causes the increased forward curve. It makes you drop your head forward more than usual, forcing you to pull your head back and up to see forward. This then causes the bump on the upper back.
How Will Dowager’s Hump Affect You?
Most of the time, kyphosis doesn’t cause health problems or need medical treatment. However, it may make you feel self-conscious about how you look.
Although rare, more severe cases can develop over time due to continued curving through the spine, leading to the eventual compression of other parts of the body, including the lungs, nerves, and digestive tract.
How To Prevent a Dowager’s Hump
Dowager’s hump can be preventable. There are a few ways to avoid getting it:
Correct posture - Try to be mindful of your posture. Check yourself when sitting at your desk. Sit up straight, think of stacking your ears over your shoulders, and pull your shoulders down and back prior to beginning your work to prevent shoulder rounding.
Follow a healthy diet - Make sure you eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, while avoiding soda. Studies have shown that soda may negatively affect your bone density due to phosphoric acid in the soda making your bones more porous, and therefore, weakening the bone structure. Some doctors believe caffeine may have similar negative effects.
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.
Calcium- Calcium protects and strengthens bones. Check with your doctor to ensure you are getting adequate amounts.
Can You Reverse a Dowager's Hump?
Depending on your age and the severity of your dowager’s hump, you may be able to improve or reverse it. In most cases, people have found physiotherapy beneficial. A physiotherapist can work with you to develop a program that will address your specific needs. Treatment may include:
Postural training, stretching, and strengthening exercises - This will help reduce the spinal curvature, decrease possible pain, and prevent the condition from advancing. You can lessen or slow the progression of the curve by altering the way you sit, stand, and complete your daily activities.
Myofascial/soft tissue manual therapy - These hands on techniques with in some cases joint mobilization will help improve spinal flexibility.
Therapeutic taping or specialized braces- This can be used to reduce the angle of the curve and increase postural awareness.
A dowager’s hump will not disappear overnight; however, it can be reduced over time by working with a physiotherapist and adhering to the program they develop for you. If you think you might have a dowager’s hump and you are in the Vancouver area, reach out to us at https://couvehealth.com. We have a team of specialists and a 5-step process to ensure the correct diagnosis and treatment plan is put into place.
Our physiotherapists will work with you to execute your treatment plan and put you on a path to greatly improve your situation. Book your appointment with Couve Health online by clicking here today.