Treatment for a Dowager's Hump

Written by david b. ryan
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Dowager's hump, a condition more properly called kyphosis, is a convex curvature of the upper-back vertebrae created by a "wedge fracture," a compression of the forward area of the vertebrae and the bending of the spine due to progressive weakening as a consequence of osteoporosis. While its vernacular name associates the condition with women, kyphosis can occur in men as well. The onset of the condition can be sudden, sometimes during bending or lifting, and it can readily spread to adjacent vertebrae. The affected person appears to bow sharply forward. Painful consequences can include strain from stretching the neck muscles in attempts to straighten up, as well as pressure on the lungs that can make breathing difficult. This condition can be treated in several ways.

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Exercise

The first treatment option is an exercise program of at least two sessions per week. Some programs use a weighted vest to assist in proper posture. Qualified physical therapists can lead patients in useful movement, as well as advising them of exercises and motion that should be avoided.

Non-surgical Treatment

A second approach to treating kyphosis is "vertebroplasty," a non-surgical technique in which a bonding cement is injected by a radiologist, using a needle called a trocar, into the areas of the affected vertebrae that have been made porous as a result of osteoporosis. Vertebroplasty is performed with either local or general anaesthesia.

Surgery

A third option involves surgery. In "kyphoplasty," a surgical variant of vertebroplasty, the goal is to return the deformed vertebrae to their original position. While the patient is under a local or general anaesthetic, the surgeon inserts a balloon through a tube into the affected vertebra. Once inserted, it is inflated as a means to return the bone to its regular position and configuration. Once the balloon is removed, cement is injected into the void it left behind.

Sleeping Practices

A new mattress may help those afflicted with kyphosis. The firmest mattress available is best to use with this condition. Even if the mattress itself feels like cement, it can be covered with softer padding for general comfort. For some patients, sleeping without a pillow is also recommended.

Other Approaches

Other non-surgical osteoporosis treatments can help to reverse the underlying condition causing kyphosis. In addition to physical therapy, these can include taking calcium supplements, various drugs, and a variety of nutritional and dietary plans.

Prevention

The condition can generally be prevented. Regular intake of vitamin D and calcium is helpful, as is moderate weight training. It is a good idea to consult a physician about prevention of osteoporosis, as well as about treatment at any point after the onset of the condition.

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