The Buffalo Hump

buffalo hump, posture, Dr Beverley Marr

As a child, I spent many afternoons watching western movies. I was in for the horses. The stampede scenes were great, big horses tearing it up among all the crazy-eyed buffalo. Not until many years later did I realize the two big mistakes about westerns. (1)Those weren’t buffalo, they were American Bison, and (2) Bison are huge! Much bigger than the quarter horses. I wonder where they got all those mini bisons?

buffalo hump bison posture Dr Beverley Marr
So how do bison have anything to do with this blog? It’s about a condition termed Buffalo Hump and was named for a fat deposit on the upper back where the neck meets the shoulders. Here is what it looks like:

buffalo hump, posture Dr Beverley Marr
More predominant in women, especially menopausal women. Men do get it too. It is characterized by a fatty buildup (deposit) resembling the fatty deposit on a Buffalo. The medical term for this condition is kyphoscoliosis and fortunately is not a “disease.” The main problem with Buffalo Hump is that it forces your head too far forward which results in a skeletal imbalance. Eventually, this can cause problems with the bones and joints in the upper back and neck. Plus, it’s unattractive.

Change in hormonal levels is the etiology and can develop as a result of chronically high levels of cortisol – the stress hormone. Buffalo Hump is also associated with Cushing’s Disease.

Buffalo Hump can also develop as a side effect from certain oral corticosteroid drugs such as prednisone, hydrocortisone, and certain AIDS medications. In fact, a side-effect of taking prednisone is called Prednisone Buffalo Hump, which may be permanent.

Obesity is also a major reason for the hump to develop, especially if you have diabetes. There are a few other, but much rarer conditions, such as lipodystrophy (fat storage problem), but these have more significant symptoms than just fat deposition.

A real problem is that Buffalo Hump can develop into Dowager’s Hump. If you watch Downton Abbey, you may be familiar with the term “dowager.” For those of you who don’t, a “dowager” is an elegant older woman according to Webster. It softens the blow a bit.

dowager's hump, posture Dr Beverley Marr

Dowager’s Hump is a deformity in the thoracic spine where the bones change shape. These changes are actually compression fractures in the vertebra. Of note: a fracture is the same as a break, and although “fracture” sounds worse than “broken”, it is not.
Here is what a compression fracture looks like:

Approximately 25% of all post-menopausal women will get a vertebral compression fracture. Although not necessarily life-threatening, it does hurt like the dickens, takes weeks for the pain to resolve and the compressed vertebra is permanent. Unfortunately, one compression fracture can lead to another and the body starts “clicking” forward, one vertebra at a time.

You needn’t have a fracture to develop bony changes, however. Bone spurs can develop in the cervical spine simply because of carrying your head too far forward. Bone spurs can significantly limit the range of motion of your neck. I have treated several patients who could not put their heads flat down without using a pillow. This was not because of pain, the head simply would not/could not do it. Here is what bone spurs look like:

bone spurs posture Dr Beverley Marr
Remember, your body wants to be in balance so if your head is too far forward, another part of your body must compensate. With Buffalo Hump usually, the upper back becomes rounded forward, and the top of the pelvis moves backward (posterior pelvic tilt) and a loss of the curve in your low back. The whole body is out of balance. Although you may not experience pain at the hump, oftentimes you will feel it in your mid back, low back and mid neck with accompanied headaches.

So, not paying attention Buffalo Hump can have real consequences. It will not go away by itself, but you can decrease the look of it and protect yourself against other issues such as described above. I need to mention many women have successful liposuction procedures performed which will help with appearance. In some cases, the hump will reappear especially if the cause if you have Cushing’s disease.


Buffalo Hump posture Dr Beverley Marr

The first thing

Is to get your head and neck back. That means, your head must sit ON TOP of your body, not IN FRONT of your body. If you think this is an old person’s problem, take a look at this:

posture forward head carriage Dr Beverley MarrThe second thing

Is to begin increasing flexibility in your back and neck. Yoga classes are great. Yoga in not only for women!

The third thing

Is to start strengthening your body to hold your new frame. Planks are a perfect core exercise.


Make sure you are ergonomically correct when sitting at your desk. Here is what correct ergonomics looks like:

sitting at work ergonomics posture Dr Beverley Marr



So, move the monitor, raise or lower your chair, and take frequent breaks (i.e. get up at least once an hour and move around). Have your feet flat on the floor. Try to choose a chair that does not roll your thighs together. Take a break, stand up and walk around for a few minutes. Stretch your back, shoulders, and neck.






Here is a quick way to kick-start your quest for better posture and to decrease the look of Buffalo Hump. Better posture improves your life and allows for freedom of movement your body is craving.

Dr Beverley Marr, pureposture


Dr Beverley Marr, posture expert, chiropractor, co-founder of PurePosture. She believes poor posture is a root cause of many health issues prevalent today. To read about Dr Marr click here. To learn more about PurePosture click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *