fbpx

Read the safety measures we are taking regarding COVID-19 - Read More

×

Understanding Dowager’s Hump and How To Fix It

Understanding Dowager’s Hump and How To Fix It

Your spine is what allows you to move and stay flexible. If not maintained, it can run into some problems, such as Dowager’s hump. 

Dowager’s hump, also known as kyphosis, is a condition that causes the upper spine to curve. This gives you a slight hunchback appearance. Depending on its severity, it can usually be fixed with the help of stretches and medical care. 

This post will explain more about this condition and a few ways you can treat it. 

What Causes Dowager’s Hump?

There are many things that can result in this condition.

  • Poor posture
  • Old age
  • Osteoporosis
  • Medication side effects
  • Cushing’s syndrome

Dowager’s Hump Symptoms

This condition can cause quite a few unpleasant symptoms. Some of these include:

  • Neck pain
  • Intense headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of spinal flexibility

Dowager’s Hump Diagnosis

Many times, you can tell if you have Dowager’s hump by doing your own examination. If you notice your spine is curving or that you have a hard time standing straight, you probably have this issue. 

However, for a definite diagnosis, you’ll need to visit a medical professional. They’ll perform a few tests, ask some questions, and inspect your spine to see how badly your back is out of alignment. This will help them determine if you have Dowager’s hump and what the next steps should be. 

Do You Need Surgery For Dowager’s Hump? 

Sometimes surgery might be necessary for Dowager’s hump. However, this is usually because your spine is so delicate that stretching it would cause even more problems. 

In most cases, surgery isn’t required for this condition. Many times, simple stretches and holistic medical treatments, like chiropractic care, can assist with it. While it will take time and patience, the results will be worthwhile. 

Is This Condition Dangerous?

This spinal curvature isn’t necessarily dangerous. For many, it will just affect their appearance and can make doing daily tasks difficult. Despite this, it can be fatal in some. 

Studies have shown that elderly women who have Dowager’s hump could be at more of a risk of death than others. This is because it usually indicates they have a severe form of vertebral osteoporosis. When this strikes, one wrong move can prove fatal because the spine isn’t strong enough to support the body. 

Is Scoliosis the Same as Dowager’s Hump?

Both of these conditions affect the spine but do so in different ways. Scoliosis causes the spine to curve to the right or left. Dowager’s hump makes it curve forward

Dowager’s Hump vs. Buffalo Hump

Dowager’s hump and buffalo hump are basically the same, but buffalo hump is the lesser of the two. When this condition starts to develop, you will have a buffalo hump. 

Buffalo hump doesn’t always hurt your spine at first. Instead, it causes thick fat deposits to form in your neck. Over time, it can start to wear down spinal discs and muscles. 

If the condition isn’t treated, it will slowly start to turn into Dowager’s hump. This condition directly affects the spine. 

Can Dowager’s Hump Go Away On Its Own? If Untreated, What Happens?

Dowager’s hump can sometimes go away on its own if you’re consistent with stretches and treatment. Keep in mind though that this is a rough condition and will take many months to improve. 

If left untreated, it can worsen. You’ll find that your body aches more and that your spine keeps curving forward. Because of this, you’ll notice your chin is slowly collapsing into your upper rib cage. This not only is uncomfortable but can put even more strain on unaffected spinal segments. It will eventually start to cause spinal degeneration. 

Can Chiropractors Fix Dowager’s Hump?

Can Chiropractors Fix Dowager's Hump?

Chiropractic care is one of the best options for naturally fixing Dowager’s hump. Rather than just teaching you how to cope with the problem, a chiropractor will attempt to fix it. 

At your first appointment, a chiropractor will feel around your spine and ask a few questions. These might include how long you’ve had this problem and where painful areas are. Depending on its severity, they might request that an x-ray be done. This will help them get a detailed look of your condition. Once this is done, they’ll devise a personalized plan. 

Many times, a chiropractor will use the flexion-distraction technique for relief. This adjustment is a gentle option that will move the spine but not to cause pain. In fact, in most cases, you won’t even realize that your spine was adjusted. Other reasons it’s favored is because it:

  • Releases spinal pressure
  • Increases flexibility
  • Reduces inflammation

Besides this adjustment, they might use other natural methods. Some of these include:

  • Massage therapy
  • Ultrasounds
  • Interferential therapy

If your condition is severe, they might also utilize special tools, like an activator, on the area. These can warm-up the muscles and increase more blood flow to them. Many times, these instruments can get deeper into the muscles than a chiropractor’s hands can. 

5 Ways to Prevent and Treat It

5 Ways to Prevent and Treat It

1) Exercise

A useful way to prevent and treat this condition is to exercise. This will keep your spine flexible but also strengthen muscles and joints around the affected area. 

At first, exercising might be tedious and painful. While you don’t want to overdo it, it’s important to stay consistent. You might feel a little uncomfortable at first, but over time you’ll notice your body starts to feel much better. 

Here are two simple exercises you can do to heal it. 

a. Chin Tucks

Chin tucks will strengthen your upper neck which can help to improve your posture. To do it, gently pull your chin down toward your upper chest. You can use your hand to pull your head down. However, make sure to not press too hard on it. Otherwise, you could damage something. Once you feel a slight tug in your upper neck, hold the position for 30 seconds and then release. Repeat a few more times. 

b. Scapular Squeezes

This exercise will keep your upper limbs flexible and work to slowly reposition your spine back to its normal spot. 

The first step is to sit with proper posture as much as you can. Bend your arms up by your sides while keeping your palms forward. Then, slowly move your arms back so that your shoulder blades start to move toward each other. 

Once you’ve gone as far as you can, hold for a few seconds and then release. Continue this exercise about four more times. 

Remember, it’s crucial to go slow. If you start rushing or pushing your body too much through them, you’ll only make your condition worse. 

2) Use Good Posture

Many times, this condition develops because of poor posture. If you’re constantly slouching, it can put strain on your spine. This will make it easier for your upper spinal cord to start abnormally moving forward. 

If you need help with this, consider using a brace or lumbar support. These will encourage your spine to stay in place and help train you to use correct posture. 

3) Try Physical Therapy

For those whose Dowager’s hump is making daily tasks difficult, physical therapy might be necessary. 

A physical therapist can help you move normally again and teach you how to cope with your problem. Over time, you’ll notice that you can learn how to work around this annoying problem. 

Besides this, physical therapists will usually provide you with stretches and exercises to do at home. This will help strengthen your spine and ensure it stays flexible. 

4) Utilize Heat Therapy

Heat therapy can be very helpful at calming inflammation and soothing back pain caused by this medical problem. 

If you notice a flare-up in your neck or upper spine, gently place a heating pad on it. This will increase blood circulation in the area. As fresh blood flows in, it will infuse your muscles and joints with oxygen and flush out toxins. It will also loosen up muscles. This technique can be useful to try if you find you have a hard time sleeping due to your curved spine. 

For best results, do 20-minute sessions every two hours. If your condition is severe, you might need to do it more frequently, like 20-minute sessions every 45 minutes. 

5) Eat Spine-Strengthening Food

To help fight back against a deteriorating spine, you’ll want to add certain items to your diet. These contain vitamins and minerals, like calcium and magnesium, that can strengthen your bones and prevent your Dowager’s hump from getting worse. 

Some options you’ll want to consume more of are:

  • Eggs
  • Figs
  • Spinach
  • Bok Choy
  • Almonds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Green beans
  • Salmon

In addition to this, you’ll want to avoid some items. These include processed food, alcohol, and items high in fat and sugar. These can increase inflammation which won’t only increase your pain, but can make your spinal discs and nearby joints slip out of place even more. 

Dowager’s hump not only destroys the health of your spine but can be very painful. Thankfully, it can be treated, and in some cases, greatly improved. If you suffer from this condition, be sure to keep the information above in mind. You can use it as a guide to help you naturally fix this problem. 

References
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2907357/ 
https://www.jospt.org/doi/full/10.2519/jospt.2010.3099 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5574330/ 

Dr. Brent Wells - Anchorage Chiropractor
About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Dr. Brent Wells has been a trusted chiropractor since moving his family from Oregon to Alaska back in 1998 and founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab – B.S. from Univ. of Nevada, Doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College, volunteer for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation, and member of the American Chiropractic Association. As a chiropractor his focus is on family, including his 3 children and wife of 20+ years, his clinics, and ongoing education.