What is a Dowager’s hump?
Dowager’s hump, medically known as kyphosis, is a big bump that develops at the base of the neck where the spine has curved forward. This condition can both develop in men and women. Back in the days, this condition is mostly found in elderly women; hence the name “Dowager”. However, nowadays, this has become pretty common with adults and even children.
Dowager’s hump is the result of too much slouching or chronic forward-leaning. This posture has become common in this digital age where studying, working, and socializing are done in front of computer screens or other gadgets. It is no wonder why people of different ages are suffering from this condition. This bad posture leads to the development of an abnormal curve in the upper vertebrae and a mass of tissue in the base of the neck.
How to fix a Dowager’s hump?
If left untreated, Dowager’s hump can lead to other serious problems, such as hyperkyphosis and vertebral fractures. If you notice a prominent bump at the base of your neck, you can still fix it by correcting muscular imbalances and changing some of your daily habits.
However, before you start to correct your posture, you first have to make sure that it is safe for you to do so. For those who think that they developed a Dowager’s hump for any other reason than bad posture, it is best to consult your doctor first. There might be risks if you just go ahead and correct them on your own.
Here are tips to help you fix your Dowager’s hump:
1. Correct your posture
The three common habits that cause the Dowager’s hump to develop are forward head posture, hunchback posture, and rounded shoulders posture. All of these put pressure at the base of your neck, leading to the development of Dowager’s hump. In forward head posture, for example, your head protrudes forward from its normal alignment. Every inch of protrusion adds about 10 pounds of weight on your neck. This is why the first thing that you should address is your posture. Improve it by doing the following:
- Walking posture. Imagine that an invisible string is pulling you up, making you stand tall and straight. Keep your chin up, shoulders back, and stomach in. Just let your arms fall naturally at your sides as you walk. Remember the invisible string that is pulling you every time you are losing the proper posture.
- Sitting posture. Sit up straight. If you are reading or watching something, make sure that it is at eye level. If it is common for you to spend a lot of time seated in a day, it is best that you alter the surface where you sit on. Remain seated properly by putting a rolled up blanket or a small pillow underneath your sit bones. Doing this will keep your knees below your hips.
2. Release your suboccipital muscles
These muscles are located at the base of your neck. They are responsible for pulling your head into an incorrect head position. Release the suboccipital muscles from this position by finding the trigger points in the back of your head and manipulating them. Do this by resting your head on a massage or tennis ball, making sure that the ball is pressing on the target area. Next, gently rock your head from side to side until you find the tight spot, an area that hurts because of tight muscles. Keep doing this for about one minute, enough time to release the muscles from tightness.
3. Massage the sternocleidomastoid muscle
Release the tension in the sternocleidomastoid muscle by massaging it. First, find the prominent band of muscle on each side of your neck. Be careful not to press too deep so as not to hit other sensitive structures on your neck. Then, gently massage these muscles with a pinch grip. Spend one minute on each side.
4. Perform Chin retraction with extension
If you have Dowager’s hump, for sure the joints in your neck are stiff. Loosen them up by doing the following. First, perform a chin tuck by imitating the movement of a book being slid back into the shelf. Maintain this position as you slowly look up and down. Keep doing this until you feel a tight sensation at the base of your neck. Make sure that as you do this, you do not poke your chin out. Repeat this 30 times.
5. Perform Chin tucks with neck flexion holds
Begin by tucking your chin in. Next, close one of your fists and place it at the bottom of your chin, applying resistance in an upward direction. Then, nod your chin down onto your fist. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds. Repeat this 20 times.
6.Train your back muscles
Another effective way to prevent and treat Dowager’s hump is to do exercises that strengthen the upper body, including the neck and shoulders. They do not only increase muscle mass, but they also make it easier to burn fat in this part of the body.
To do this, first, lock your hands on the back of your head. Then, press your hands forward while you simultaneously push your head back with your neck muscles. Hold the position for about 5 seconds then release. Repeat this 10 times.
7. Control your sleeping position
Usually, people do not care about their posture when sleeping. However, if you are someone who has Dowager’s hump, it’s time that you do. When sleeping, keep your spine in a position that is similar to its optimal standing posture. Your shoulders should be low and your back straightened. In addition, your knees should be relaxed and your hips aligned with your shoulders. Maintain this position by following these suggestions:
For back sleepers, using a neck pillow is enough. You actually do not need anything else under your head.
For side sleepers, use a pillow to fill in space between your shoulder and your neck. Put another one between your knees and ankles.