Dowager’s Hump, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Dowager’s hump, symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment

The hump of the dowager or kyphosis can grow in both men and women. It gets its name from the rounded hunch at the base of an older woman’s neck.

This disease is the product of constant forward-leaning, a pose that is too common in our world of computer screens and other electronics today. Over time, a poor posture habit can cause you to develop an upper vertebrae curve and tissue mass at the lower neck that leads to dowager’s hump.

Symptoms

There is a normal curvature in the human spine that helps us stand upright and stay balanced.

Kyphosis happens when the spine angle is out of the normal range. The severity (curvature) of the condition can vary. In general, the greater the spine curve, the more extreme the symptoms are. Kyphosis signs may include: 

  • A hump on your back or rounded shoulders
  • Pain or a feeling of stiffness 
  • Easy fatiguability and tiredness 
  • Tight hamstrings

Causes

The individual bones that make up a healthy spine appear like cylinders stacked on one another. Kyphosis develops when the vertebra becomes more wedge-shaped due to many reasons. These include

Fractures – Crushed or broken vertebrae can result in spinal curvature. There are often no apparent signs of mild compression fractures.

Osteoporosis – This bone-thinning disease can cause a curvature in the spine, particularly if degenerated vertebrae result in compression. It is most common in people who have long been taking corticosteroids and older women.

Disk degeneration – Gentle, circular disks between the vertebrae serve as cushions. They become dry and shorten with age, which often triggers or aggravates kyphosis.

Scheuermann’s disease – This condition typically begins during the pre-puberty growth spurt. Boys are more often affected than women.

Congenital deformities – Spinal bones that may not develop properly can cause kyphosis.

Cancers and Anti-Cancer Treatments – Spine cancer can weaken the vertebrae and make them more vulnerable to compression fractures, as can chemotherapy and other anti0cancer treatments such as radiations.

Diagnosis

After taking a medical history and evaluating symptoms, your doctor may recommend the following tests:

X-rays or CT scans – X-rays of the spine can detect deformities of the vertebrae and determine the degree of curvature. A CT scan might be more helpful to have more detailed images.

MRI – This imaging test can detect infection or a spine tumor.

Nerve tests – If you are experiencing muscle weakness or numbness, your physician may recommend tests to evaluate how well nerve signals are traveling between your extremities and spinal cord.

Bone density tests – Low-density bones (vertebrae) can cause or worsen kyphosis.

Treatment

Treatment of dowager’s hump depends on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. Your physician might suggest medications and other therapies, including:

Pain relievers

If over-the-counter medicines such as naproxen sodium (Aleve), acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) are not working, you may receive stronger pain medications on prescription.

Osteoporosis medications

Certain bone-strengthening medications and supplements may help prevent additional compression fractures that would worsen your spine condition..

Exercises

Stretching exercises and yoga may help relieve back pain and improve spinal flexibility.

Bracing

Children who have Scheuermann’s kyphosis may be able to pause the progression of spine curvature by wearing a specific body brace while their vertebrae are still growing.

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