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Humps, Hunches, Slumps, Slouches and Hyperkyphosis (Hyper-kyphosis)

We have all heard of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. However, no-one wants to end up like that or even the hunched over little old lady or man they see down the street. If you’ve caught a reflection of yourself as you walk past a window and seen yourself hunching, then keep reading on.

Sadly, we are consistently seeing patients that (when asked) would acknowledge they have noticed a hunch or lump at the base of their neck. A very small amount of these people have often mentioned it to their medical doctor, and some have even discussed it with another health professional. Unfortunately, the common answer given to them about it, was that this lump, this hunch, was just normal and part of getting older.

A “hunch back” or hunching over or this lump is not normal. It means your spine, is failing, even possibly deteriorating. Contrary to popular belief, this process is not a usual part of getting older. It may be common, but it's not normal.

Excessive curve of the spine is called  hyperkyphosis

To get you up to speed, here's what all the lingo means...

1. Forward Head Posture (FHP) You can check this on yourself. When looking from the side the middle of your ear should be over the middle of your shoulder. When the ear is forward from the shoulder, we know you have a forward head posture and more than likely your neck and neck curve will be incorrectly aligned. 2. Dowager’s Hump A common term, not a proper medical term, however it's been used for years to describe the hump at the base of the neck. Typically, people are referring to the top thoracic vertebrae, T1 & T2 and how much they poke out and the fatty tissue and soft tissue lump that forms over the top of it.

3. Hyper-kyphosis or Kyphosis The mid back curve of the thoracic spine is called a kyphosis. When measured, a healthy mid back curve should be close to 32°. A small amount of curve in this area is normal, however when this curve become excessive it is called a hyperkyphosis.

How is it caused?

The potential reason for this increasing occurrence may be attributed to the large number of activities that place our head in forward positions for long periods of time. When you think about it, as a society we spend so much time on our phone, laptop, work computer, iPad, reading a good novel or even playing video games, all cause our head to lean forward over our shoulders. Forward head posture.

Your neck bones are designed to support your head which is in fact quite heavy, around 6-8kgs. These bones do a great job in supporting your head when it sits nicely over your shoulder joint, however when your head or neck is forward from your shoulder joint, damage begins.

For every 2.5cm your head goes forward, the weight of your head effectively doubles. This constant forward head posture in everyday life damages the spine, the bones and even the delicate nerves which the bones are trying to protect.

Other Causes of FHP, Dowager’s Hump and Hyper-kyphosis

  • Repetitious Poor posture

  • Degeneration

  • Past history of rib fracture or trauma

  • Scheuermann’s Disease

  • Structural – hereditary atypical growth of a vertebrae

  • Compression fracture (Often caused from Osteoporosis)

  • Spinal infections

  • Neuromuscular conditions i.e. Cerebral Palsy


What are the long-term consequences of not having any of these conditions treated?

The longer you remain in these forward or slumped positions, the more muscle and joint fatigue occurs. This can result in an aching/ burning neck or mid back pain which can impact your life in a range of ways. It may be preventing you from getting to sleep, waking up refreshed and most importantly feeling ready to enjoy your day.

Without correct alignment your mid back curve can increase because of forward head posture or many other reasons. This increased curve can cause disc compression, nerve irritation, a burning feeling, spine damage and arthritis, leaving you with a permanent hunched back. This is not only painful but looks unsightly and is definitely not normal or healthy.

You may even reach for Panadol or Neurofen to make this burning stop, possibly even something stronger so you can stop this gnawing feeling. Unfortunately, these solutions, although seemingly a good idea at the time, do nothing to help solve the problem permanently. Often you will wake up and it’ll be Groundhog Day. It’s still there and it happens all over again.

Here are some common signs & symptoms of FHP, Dowager’s Hump and Hyperkyphosis to look out for:

  • You may see or feel a lump at the base of your neck or at the top or your mid back

  • You may see a hunching or slouching appearance in your stance

  • The feeling of burning, tightness or pulling at the base of your neck

  • Burning, tightness or pulling in your mid back

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Increased fatigue

  • Sore shoulders or neck

Usually by the time you experience these symptoms or body signals, it’s a sign that things are getting bad. A lot worse in fact. So, what do you do next?

Treatment This is where my team and I can help. We have helped thousands of patients over the years (with hunched backs, forward head posture and burning backs) get their sleep, sore shoulders and upright reflections back.

In our office we have 5 step approach:

  1. Firstly, diagnosis through a detailed examination and consultation, posture assessment, x-rays (If necessary) and specific measurements.

  2. Get the spine moving properly again and take pressure off the nerves through Chiropractic adjustments, alignments.

  3. Patient Specific exercises and use of a ligament stretching device

  4. Assistance changing bad habits supported by our consistent education and experience in the industry.

  5. Re-assess frequently for improvements/changes and check that a patient’s goals of care are being met.

*If the kyphosis is above a certain degree, referral may be necessary for bracing. With extreme kyphosis surgery may be recommended.

* Obviously the sooner the better for assessment and diagnosis to prevent these options ever needing to be considered.

House of Chiropractor Albury

Next Steps If you don’t want to look in the mirror and see yourself hunching forward like your mum, aunty or nan or cringe when you hear a reference to the Hunch Back of Notre Dame, then it’s time to do something about your spine.

You probably already know friends or family that come in to see us. You know then we get great results. We try to find the cause of your problems and design a step-by-step solution to get you back to rocking your day with energy and a smile on your face.

If you're keen to make a change, simply book online at your convenience or give our friendly team a call on (02) 6009 0999. We look forward to meeting in the office soon.


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