Dowager’s Hump Symptoms and Causes

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Dowager’s hump is an abnormal outward curvature of the thoracic vertebrae of the upper back. Compression of the front portion of the involved vertebrae due to osteoporosis leads to forward bending of the spine (kyphosis) and creates a hump at the upper back. Like most osteoporotic changes, it is often preventable. It can develop in both men and women, but it gets its nickname from the slightly rounded hunch you might see at the base of an elderly woman’s neck. This condition results from chronic forward-leaning and slouching, a posture that is too common in our world of computer screens and other devices. Over time, a habit of poor posture can cause you to develop an abnormal curve of the upper vertebrae and a mass of tissue at the lower part of the neck.


Dowager’s hump is often accompanied by a forward head posture, or chicken head posture, a condition when your head protrudes forward from its normal alignment. In this case, you add about 4.5kg extra of force on your neck for every 2.5cm of protrusion. That’s why making a conscious effort to improve your posture must become your daily routine.

The symptoms of dowager’s hump can include:

  • Rounded shoulders
  • A hump on your back
  • Feeling tired or fatigued
  • Tight hamstrings
  • Muscles fatigue easily
  • Gradual postural changes
  • Chronic pain in the back, neck, and shoulders
  • Loss in height
  • Multiple vertebral compression fractures
  • Protruding abdomen
  • Repeated falls
  • Back stiffness
  • Pain in the hips

How do you prevent a dowager’s hump?

If you are always bent forward, that’s extra weight pulling on and straining the back. The forward curve is bad for disks and increases the risk of disk problems and neck fatigue. Our muscles aren’t made for that kind of curve. It can cause upper and lower back pain and even some difficulty with tightness in the legs. Maintaining good posture is the best way to prevent this problem.

To correct your walking posture, find your center by standing up straight and tall. Keep your chin parallel to the ground, your shoulders back, and your stomach in. Let your arms fall naturally at your sides. Imagine that a string is coming from the ceiling and pulling you upward as you stand tall. Visualize the string every time you need to get back into the proper position. Not looking at your phone all the time while walking will help a lot too.

Can you reverse or cure a dowager’s hump?

Depending on your age and the severity, you often can improve or reverse this problem. You can accomplish this by strengthening the upper back muscles; increasing tone helps pull up the shoulders and the head. Weak spinal extensor muscles are associated with Dowager’s Hump. We have large back muscles holding up the spine. Exercise can strengthen the spinal muscles and thus hold the spine erect. This will help maintain the natural curvature of the spine. If you think only the spinal muscles can affect the spine, think again. In reality, posture is affected by many muscles of the body.

Sensory Neuro Deficits

Deficits in your vision, hearing and sensory system affect your ability to maintain balance and posture. When vibratory input from your joints and sensory input is affected, your perception of erect spinal alignment is impaired. Most elderly individuals have no idea they’re not standing erect. Elderly people pitch their head far more compared to younger people when they’re moving.

Similarly, with a loss of hearing, they tend to rely more on their vision as far as movement and posture are concerned. If you thought, holding your spine is all about the back, think again. A whole series of body systems work together to keep your spine aligned. If you want to fix Dowager’s hump, you’ll have to work on improving each of them.