dowager's hump

Dowager’s Hump and Physiotherapy: Causes, Prevention, and Effective Exercises

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Dowager’s hump, also known as kyphosis, is a condition characterized by an excessive forward curve of the upper back spine. In the context of physiotherapy, it’s essential to understand the causes of dowager’s hump, its prevalence, and the role of middle-age weight gain and mobile device usage in its occurrence. This article will delve into the connection between dowager’s hump and physiotherapy, exploring the factors contributing to its development and offering effective exercises to address and prevent this condition.

dowager's hump

Causes of Dowager’s Hump and the Role of Physiotherapy

Dowager’s hump is primarily caused by excessive kyphosis in the upper back spine. Aging plays a significant role as our spinal discs dehydrate with time, leading to increased spinal curvature. For physiotherapy professionals, it’s crucial to recognize that this condition is prevalent, particularly among older populations and in females.

1) Middle-Age Weight Gain

One of the critical factors contributing to dowager’s hump is middle-age weight gain. Physiotherapists understand that excess weight can shift the body’s center of gravity forward, causing the cervical and thoracic spine to round more in an attempt to balance this forward shift. This increased curvature can result in a more prominent dowager’s hump.

2) Poor Posture

Furthermore, poor postural habits, often associated with prolonged mobile device usage and desk work, can worsen the condition. Physiotherapists are well aware that maintaining healthy posture is essential for spinal health. Prolonged poor posture weakens back muscles and spinal ligaments, making it challenging to maintain a straight posture.

Prevalence of Dowager’s Hump and the Role of Physiotherapy

Physiotherapists often encounter dowager’s hump among their patients. It’s estimated to affect over 80% of the office-going population, although it is often discovered as an incidental finding during physiotherapy assessments. Many individuals experience dowager’s hump without realizing it, as it is seldom the primary reason for seeking physiotherapy treatment. Physiotherapists understand that this high prevalence is a consequence of prolonged desk work and widespread use of mobile devices, which contribute to poor posture and weakened back muscles.

Physiotherapy Exercises to Improve Dowager’s Hump

Physiotherapists play a pivotal role in addressing dowager’s hump through exercises that strengthen the upper back muscles and promote better posture. Here are some effective exercises that can be incorporated into physiotherapy programs to alleviate dowager’s hump:

Postural Correction Exercise:

  1. Start in a seated position, with your head looking forward and your palms facing the ceiling.
  2. Hold a towel or a resistance band between your hands and pull it apart until it’s shoulder-width apart.
  3. Keep the band in that position as you pull your shoulder blades together at the back.
  4. You should feel the muscles between your shoulder blades working and a stretch in your chest muscles in front.


  1. Pectoral Stretch:
    • Start in a seated or standing position.
    • Move your arms behind you and interlock your fingers, slowly moving your arms upwards.
    • As you lift your arms upwards, you will feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders.
    • Hold this position, then breathe out and relax.
    • Repeat every 1-2 hours, holding each side for 15-30 seconds.
  2. Lateral Stretch:
    • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place one hand on your hip.
    • Extend the other hand into the air, leaning over to the side while you increase the stretch by pushing your hips in the opposite direction.
    • Repeat on the other side.
    • Hold each side for 15-30 seconds and repeat every 1-2 hours.

Physiotherapy and Neck Support Devices/Posture Correctors

Neck support devices and posture correctors can provide short-term relief for dowager’s hump. However, they should not be relied upon as the long term solution. These devices may help alleviate discomfort and encourage better posture temporarily, but they do not address the underlying issues.

For long-term improvements, we recommend a treatment plan that includes a combination of exercises and stretches. These interventions bring about lasting changes in posture and muscle strength, effectively supporting the neck and upper back spine. By prioritizing a comprehensive physiotherapy program, individuals can reduce the prominence of dowager’s hump and improve their spinal health.

In conclusion, dowager’s hump is a prevalent condition that physiotherapists often encounter, especially among the office-going population. It is vital for physiotherapy professionals to understand the causes, prevalence, and contributing factors of dowager’s hump. Through targeted physiotherapy exercises and stretches, as well as a focus on maintaining good posture, individuals can effectively address and prevent dowager’s hump. While neck support devices and posture correctors may offer short-term relief, physiotherapy plays a pivotal role in achieving long-lasting improvements in spinal health and posture.