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What Is the Fat Pad on the Upper Back?

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
What Is the Fat Pad on the Upper Back?
Exercise helps you lose weight all over, not just at your upper back. Photo Credit IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images

People gain weight in different ways. While you may expand through your belly or thighs, some people develop what looks like a hump at the upper back and behind the shoulders. Known clinically as a dorsocervical fat pad, the hump can be a result of obesity, certain medications, hormones or genetics.

Like any trouble spot, it's impossible to target this fat pad with exercise alone. While comprehensive weight loss might help the fat pad diminish if you're overweight, consult your doctor to make sure there's not another cause of your upper back hump.

Read More: What Causes Back Fat?


Overweight and obesity causes fat to accumulate in all sorts of places you'd rather it not. While it's not easy to commit to weight loss, it's good for your physique and your health. Cutting calories, choosing mostly whole and unprocessed foods and increasing your physical activity levels are ways to gradually and safely lose excess pounds.

Your upper back fat pad may not be the first place you notice weight loss, but as you achieve a healthier weight, it will likely shrink along with other parts of your body. Spot reduction is just not possible, so patience and dedication are your only recourse.

If your upper back hump is due to obesity, eat right and exercise.
If your upper back hump is due to obesity, eat right and exercise. Photo Credit monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

HIV and Certain Medications

HIV infection and treatment with specific medications can alter the way a person stores fat. In the research book, Lipodystrophy Syndrome in HIV, it's reported that upper back fat pad enlargement was reported in 14 percent of women with HIV. Although abnormal abdominal fat accumulation is more likely with HIV and treatment, an upper back fat gain is also possible.

Long-term use of specific steroids for hormone conditions, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus —including prednisone, cortisone and hydrocortisone —I may also lead to the development of a fat pad at the upper back.

Genetics and Cushings Syndrome

A condition known as Cushings syndrome may also be the reason for your upper back fat pad. You'll have other symptoms too, including a rounded middle, moon-shaped face, easy bruising, leg swelling and muscle weakness.

Cushings syndrome occurs when you have too much of the hormone cortisol in your body. This may result from chronic use of the aforementioned glucocorticoid medications, but also from a tumor on your pituitary gland. Cushings syndrome is more common in women than men, but is relatively rare.

Certain genetic disorders may also predispose you to gain fat in the upper back. You're best off consulting your doctor for a diagnosis.

Getting Rid of the Upper Back Fat Pad

Weight loss, if you're overweight or obese, can help your fat pad reduce. If you suspect it's a specific medication that's causing it, talk to your doctor about a possible alternative with fewer side effects.

In extreme cases, liposuction and surgical excision can be an option. Again, discuss with your doctor appropriate treatment strategies.

Read More: How to Lose Back Fat Fast

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