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  • Writer's pictureJo Soria

Dowager’s Hump: Genetic Predisposition or Modern Tech Side Effect?

Why do you have a hunched back, and how do you fix it?


Have you ever found yourself engrossed in the digital world, only to realize that your posture has taken a nosedive and you've developed a hump on the back of your neck? If so, you're not alone.


It's a common scenario in today's technology-driven era, and it's sparked a conversation about the impact of our digital habits on our overall physical well-being. But is it possible to prevent or remedy what is known as Dowager's Hump?


Woman in front of computer rubbing Tech Neck issue

What is Dowager's Hump?


Dowager's hump, or "Tech Neck," is rooted in kyphosis or hyperkyphosis, an excessive spine curvature that creates a rounded appearance of the thoracic and sacral regions (base of the neck).


Visible rounding of the upper back is the most apparent symptom of kyphosis, and depending on its severity, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons states that tech neck can also lead to:

  • Rounded shoulders

  • Mild back pain

  • Fatigue

  • Spine stiffness

  • Tight hamstrings

  • Decreased inhalation capability

  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in the legs

  • Loss or reduced sensation in upper extremities

However, it's important to note that severe pain and complications are rare, with many not even noticing they have a dowager's hump until friends and family point it out.


Harmful Habits

We're likely all guilty of hunching our shoulders, slouching, and craning our necks downwards. It's a subconscious action that today's use of technology encourages. After a long, focused work session, we may find ourselves bent forwards with our necks in an unnatural position; after all, scrolling on our smartphones or typing on our laptops is a little tricky with a straight neck.

Man hunched over laptop with bad neck posture

While society has been arguing about the pros and cons of tech for decades, it's become more apparent in recent years that the overuse of technology could be causing an unwanted impact on our physical health. As a recent example, researchers at UT Southwestern's Spine Center found that bending the head and neck forward at a 45-degree angle—which is not uncommon for habitual scrolling—added roughly 40 pounds of force on the neck. This can't be healthy in the long run.



Is Tech Truly to Blame?

Although frequent technology use may contribute to and exacerbate the condition, it's ultimately unlikely to be the underlying cause.


According to the Scoliosis Care Centre, poor posture and age-related changes in the spine are the primary predictors of developing hyperkyphosis. At the same time, specific genetic and biochemical influences may also increase an individual's susceptibility. Other contributing factors may include:

  • High cortisol levels

  • Poor nutrition

  • Frequent use of steroid medication

  • Osteoporosis

Young woman outside holding hair off of tech neck pain

How to Deal With Dowager's Hump

Medical professionals contend that regular physical exercise is crucial in managing and improving hyperkyphosis. One of the most effective treatment options is focusing on activities that strengthen the back and core muscles while promoting flexibility and good posture. Consistently, many can significantly reduce the appearance and symptoms of their dowager's hump within a few weeks.


When creating your exercise program, addressing hyperkyphosis from various angles is essential to stretch all surrounding muscles adequately. Including stretches such as chin tucks, scapular squeezes, bird dogs, a guided foam rolling regimen, and weight-bearing activities like walking should give you the best chance of mitigating tech neck. Check out these helpful exercises from Precision Movement.


However, medical intervention may be necessary in cases where hyperkyphosis is associated with conditions like high cortisol levels or hormonal imbalances. And either way, it's advised that you seek advice from a medical professional to rule out an underlying medical issue or before charting a new physical fitness regimen.


 

What are we missing here? Let us know in the comments! #HollaAtJo


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