Buffalo Hump Symptoms

A buffalo hump is the common name given to a fatty hump on the back of the neck. This disturbing symptom can indicate several different conditions. If you're at risk for developing a buffalo hump, you should be aware of the symptoms so you can catch it early and discuss a plan for reducing it with your doctor.


Buffalo hump is the name for a build-up of fat between the shoulders, at the back of the neck. This fat accumulation causes a hump to rise up off the neck. Depending on how severe it is, this may be almost unnoticeable from the outside, or it may be quite visible and large enough to interfere with daily activities. A buffalo hump may also be referred to as a dorsocervical fat pad.


A buffalo hump can be caused by several different issues, so it can't be used as a definitive diagnosis of anything. It's a common symptom of Cushing's Syndrome, in which case the hump is caused by hypercortisolism, or overproduction of cortisone. Buffalo hump is also a common side effect of some medications used to treat HIV patients. In that instance, a buffalo hump is part of an overall condition called lipodystrophy, when parts of the body accumulate fat and other parts waste away.

Buffalo hump may also be caused by some steroid medications or by extreme obesity.


The effects of buffalo hump depend on how severe the condition is. A small buffalo hump may be no more than a minor annoyance. If it grows large, though, a buffalo hump may interfere with the kinds of clothes you can wear. It may cause embarrassment and a fear about leaving the house or being with other people. If left untreated, a buffalo hump may interfere with your ability to feel good about yourself.


If your buffalo hump is due to medication, you should discuss your concerns with your doctor. He may be able to adjust your medications or dosages to reduce your hump. You will have to weigh the inconvenience of the hump against the benefit you're receiving from the medication.

Some doctors, such as Dr. Harvey Abrams with Wilshire Aesthetics, have developed methods of cosmetic removal of buffalo humps. If your hump is large enough to interfere with daily life, you may want to look into this alternative.

In some cases, particularly if your hump is caused by obesity, you may be able to reduce it through diet and exercise.


Some conditions, such as osteoporosis, may cause symptoms that resemble buffalo hump. You should never attempt to self-diagnose. If you develop a hump between your shoulders, schedule an appointment to discuss it with your doctor to discover the true cause of your hump so you can treat the underlying condition.