I recently taught a workshop where I had one student who was diagnosed with having Dowager’s Hump. She came to my Transform Your Form workshop to hopefully get some answers to possibly slow down or even reverse what was happening to her body. It is truly unfortunate that her doctor told her that there was nothing that could be done about it when in actuality, there are many possibilities available to her in starting to correct the hyperkyphosis that has been create din her upper back.
So, what exactly is a Dowager’s Hump? Doing my research, I saw that the term originally came from what was used to describe a distinguished elderly women. It may be no surprise that many people who do have Dowager’s humps are mostly women, but it does occur in men as well. I would not think that many women would find themselves to be very distinguished with this hump and many women tend to begin to avoid social situations and find embarrassment due to this excessive curvature in their back.
This hump can be caused by various factors, some genetic while others are due to osteoporosis and musculoskeletal issues. If you have seen the classic picture of an image of a man sitting in front of a computer with his head far forward of the rest of his boy, you can definitely point him out as being a good candidate for obtaining a Dowager’s hump in the future. So, why does this occur and how come it is so prevalent?
Well, as mentioned above, it is primarily due to our culture of sitting and staring straight ahead into a screen of some sort. This is also seen in driving as well. The weight of the head is at least 12 lbs when it is seated and aligned correctly on top of our neck. When we are jutting our head forward, it causes an excessive amount of strain on the muscles along the upper back, such as the trapezius and scalenes, even the sternocleidomastoid. The head gets pulled forward, dragged down and is much heavier. The muscles along the upper back become overstretched and weak, the muscles along the front of the chest and neck are overly shortened and weak and when we then try to lift our head up because it has been dragged so far forward and down, the muscles in the neck fatigue from having to hold up the weight of the head. Over time, this may be the cause for a Dowager’s hump de to musculoskeletal imbalances. It can also be caused due to osteopenia or osteoporosis. In those cases, a slight fracture occurs on the anterior side of the vertebrae causing that side to become crushed leading to the forward leaning you see in those with Dowager’s hump.
It is amazing, but I have already seen several people, both those who I know and random people on the street, with the beginnings of a Dowager’s hump and these are middle-aged folks too! But there is something you can do about it. Rather then live the rest of your life straining to see what is in front of you, how about correcting what is causing this imbalance, especially if it is caused by musculoskeletal issues.
Today in my yoga class, I taught a sequence using the Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls to help erase some of the tension that resides in the muscles causing this condition. I am currently lacking in providing a video to complement this blog to show you how you can access these muscles with the Therapy balls, but hope to post in the next blog. They primarily will work on the rhomboids and the muscles along the shoulders, head and neck. In addition, there are many exercises to incorporate int your everyday life that can be able to help turn around some of the muscle imbalances, again, hope to provide in my next post.
In the meantime, you can watch this great video by Erik Dalton who gives a great explanation about Dowager’s hump and also includes some massage points that you can have your massage therapist work on for you. Until next time!