Dowager's Hump Causes

Dowager's hump, or kyphosis, describes a condition in which there is an abnormality in the curve of the spine. Kyphosis is specifically the extreme curvature of the spinal column in the chest. The excessive curvature causes the formation of a hump on the back and shoulders of the affected patient. This commonly occurs in elderly women and can bend the spine to more than 40 to 45 degrees off of the normal axis. This abnormality can be caused by various conditions. The cause of dowager's hump can determine the proper treatment.

Doctor looking at a spinal x-ray with a patient (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images)

Genetic Causes

One of the causes of kyphosis, or dowager's hump, is genetic abnormalities, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Patients can be born with an abnormal curvature of the spine. The malformation in the genes of the patient causes the improper development of the vertebral column. Kyphosis due to genetic problems is associated with other congenital problems, such as kidney or heart abnormalities. Treatment of congenital dowager's hump is usually surgical.

Bad Posture

Bad posture has been noted to cause kyphosis, reports Patients who develop a dowager's hump due to bad posture are said to be suffering from postural kyphosis. Postural kyphosis develops slowly and is more common in females. Poor posture leads to over-stretching of the spinal ligaments and puts pressure on the bones of the spinal column. The frontal curvature of the upper part of the spine usually results in an exaggerated outward curve of the lower spine.


Kyphosis can be caused by osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a progressive bone loss that causes weaker and porous bones, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Osteoporosis is caused by decreases in calcium, vitamin D, thyroid disorders and aging. Osteoporosis causes the bones of spinal column to weaken and bend. Often the vertebrae can fracture and reset in an abnormal position. This can cause the dowager's hump to rise. Treatment for osteoporosis includes increasing the patient's intake of calcium and vitamin D, enforcing the proper diet and encouraging regular exercise.

Compression Fractures

Compression fractures are breaks in the spinal column. Excess pressure on the bones causes them to collapse and deform. These fractures can cause kyphosis, or dowager's hump, states Medline Plus, a National Institutes of Health website. The hump usually forms quickly and can be accompanied by severe back pain. The compression fractures causes the patient to stoop over and leads to the formation of the abnormal curvature of the spine.

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