Have you ever looked at yourself from the side, either in a mirror or in a photo and notice a hump on the back of your neck or maybe one of your friends or family members graciously pointed out that you had a neck hump?
One of the most common questions I get in practice from patients that complain of neck issues is what is that hump or what can I do to eliminate my neck hump? Usually it’s of minimal concern outside of what it looks like, however some people are self-conscious about it.
Some people still refer to this as a Dowager’s hump, a hunchback, a buffalo hump, or forward head posture. The technical term is a ‘Dorsocervical fat pad’. The reason for that name is because it is an accumulation of fat tissue on the dorsal part of the spine on the back of the neck.
There are many causes to a hump forming on the back of your neck, but I’m going to discuss three main causes I see daily in practice:
Steroids like prednisone or conditions like Cushing syndrome can cause an accumulation of fat on the back of the neck. Also being over weight can also make this area appear bigger than it is as C7 generally protrudes at this junction in the spine.
Compression fractures from weakened bones in the thoracic spine can cause the spine to hunch forward.
Three postural patterns can also create a neck hump to form: thoracic hyper-kyphosis, cervical kyphosis, and forward head posture.
Why Does Fat Accumulate?
Outside of medications and certain medical conditions, when it comes to a neck hump being caused by poor posture, there seems to be a predominate theory about why fat accumulates in the area of the cervical-thoracic spine junction.
Some have theorized that fat is laid down in the area to help protect this area of the spine. This is a very sensitive area of the spine. As you can imagine, just an inch or 2 deep below the surface of the skin is your spinal cord. The spinal cord is the lifeline of your body. It is protected by the vertebrae. Because your spinal cord has the important job of transmitting information from the brain to all the parts of your body, it should be protected. So it is likely because of the body’s intelligence that it likely lays fat down there to protect that area because it is now protruding and more vulnerable to injury.
You should always consult your health care provider (like your chiropractor) to first determine the cause of your neck hump. Once it is determined that yours is caused by a postural problem, your chiropractor will provide a correction plan to help reduce or eliminate your neck hump through specific exercises, stretches/traction, and adjustments.
However, one exercise I find very helpful is a ‘modified’ Y-W-T exercise that you can start doing at home immediately. You can learn how to do it in this video:
Fixing the hump at the back of your neck will take some effort and time. Just like any other health goal, being persistent will allow you to be successful.
P.S. Here is PART 2 and 3 to wrap up my “How to fix a neck hump” series: