Many people (and especially women) experience that hump at the back of the neck as they age - and it can be more prominent the older they become, even leading to an obvious stoop.
If this is something that is affecting you, don't despair as there are simple exercises and lifestyle changes you can do to lessen the effects of this condition (often known as dowager’s hump). It is also known as a buffalo hump.
A word of caution
But be aware that tumors, cysts and other abnormal growths can also form on your shoulders, creating a hump. At other times, a hump can be the result of a curvature in the spine.
The medical term for dowager's hump or buffalo hump is postural kyphosis
and, if left, can even lead to breathing problems, digestive issues and limited physical functions.
is one of the reasons behind the development of dowager's hump with most of those with the condition holding their head slightly in front of the rest of their body instead of in line with their shoulders. If this is you, correct your posture by:
- Standing up straight while walking.
- Keeping your chin parallel with the ground.
- Keeping shoulders back.
- Imagining a string is attached to your head and someone is pulling it upward.
Other reasons can be:
- A side effect of a prescription medication (such as those used to treat obesity).
Cushing’s syndrome (a rare condition where the body has too much of the hormone cortisol). This disorder causes obesity above the waist, acne, chronic pain, irregular menstrual cycles and changes in sex drive. Along with other muscle and bone changes, such as thinning bones and weak muscles, Cushing’s syndrome causes fat to gather behind the neck.
Osteoporosis (a condition that leads to thin bones).
- Long-term steroid use.
How to treat the problem
This condition can lead to tightness in the neck, often making the problem worse. If you follow this simple self-massage, you can help relax these muscles.
- Hold a bath towel long-ways and twist it until it is tight.
- Place the towel behind your neck, holding one end in each hand.
- Rub the towel band up and down and side to side for 5 to 7 minutes or longer until the tension has been relieved.
- Your sleeping position
This can (a) affect your posture and (b) contribute to a dowager’s hump. Try to keep your back as straight as possible while you’re sleeping. If you are inclined to sleep on your back, use only a neck pillow. If sleeping on your side is your favorite method, use a pillow that fills the space between your shoulder and neck.
- Strengthening those back muscles
Strengthen the upper body by increasing muscle mass and burning fat in this area. Give this exercise a try.
- Put your hands on the back of your head.
- Press forward with your hands while also pressing back against your hands, engaging your neck muscles.
- Hold for 5 seconds, then release.
- Repeat 10 times.
- Reducing neck tension
To help reduce tension in your neck and strengthen your upper body muscles even more, try this simple neck stretch.
- Tilt your head toward your right shoulder until you feel the left side of your neck stretching.
- Use your right hand to gently pull your head just a bit closer to your shoulder.
- Hold the position for 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Repeat 3 times per side.
- Stretching the suboccipital muscles
These muscles are a small group at the base of the neck. If you can stretch and target them, you can help correct the forward head posture. Try this simple exercise.
Try to get rid of any excess weight by making certain lifestyle changes such as having healthy diet, drinking lots of water and increasing your physical activity.
- Lie on the floor with a massage or tennis ball at the base of your neck.
- Rock your head from side to side, massaging and releasing the muscles in this area.
- Release after 2 minutes.