What Is a Dowager's Hump?

Updated November 21, 2016

A dowager is a woman, generally an elderly, widowed lady, who owns property and has money. Since so many older women develop this condition, it was coined Dowager's Hump. When osteoporosis is quite advanced, a person (men, too) can develop vertebral fractures and kyphosis, or a spinal hump.


According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become extremely fragile and break. These breaks, or fractures, frequently occur in the wrists, spine and hip areas. If an individual has advanced osteoporosis, it can impair his ability to walk and result in permanent disability and even death. When a person sustains vertebral and spinal fractures, this can cause deformity, such as the Dowager's Hump, as well as loss of height and bad back pain.

Consider Your Risk Factors

Osteoporosis may be genetic. If your grandmother or grandfather, or your parents, is bent over this may be your destiny unless you intervene now. Quit smoking and drinking, both of which diminish bone density. After a woman goes through menopause, her oestrogen level is low and this further diminishes bone density. Get a lot of calcium and Vitamin D into your system to strengthen your bones, which prevents them from breaking, according to

Diseases and Drugs That Put You at Risk

If you have used steroids for a long time, or if you have Cushing's disease, hyper-parathyroidism or hyperthyroidism, you may be at risk for osteoporosis and developing a Dowager's Hump.

Vertebral Compression Fractures

A Dowager's Hump develops over the years due to vertebral compression fractures, which can be caused by bending over or even sneezing. The vertebra progresses into a curved shape, and that is the Dowager's Hump.

Wedge Fractures

Wedge fractures, during which the front of the vertebra collapses, cause a Dowager's Hump to develop. The backside of the vertebra remains intact, which forces the vertebra to tip forward. When this happens, the spine becomes misaligned. The hump is actually created when the area above the fracture moves forward, according to

Domino Effect

The tipping forward outcome puts stress on the other vertebrae, which sometimes causes another wedge fracture to occur. Fracture after fracture can result, which leads to the individual becoming more and more bowed and bent over, sometimes to the extent that his face is looking at the ground.

Breathing Difficulties

If you are suffering from Marfan syndrome, which is a connective tissue disorder, you have a greater risk of developing a Dowager's Hump, which can create breathing difficulties because the rib cage is pressed against the lungs, according to

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About the Author

Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She completed both the undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Pearce has been writing professionally for over 30 years.