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The Dowager Hump: “Fixing” it

Until a couple of years ago, I didn’t personally have to worry about the dowager hump.  I just fixed them when clients came in and showed them some ideas to maintain the fix.  Then, things changed for me.

The neck  is where the dowager hump lives, you might want to look at this before you read further:

(That has got to be the longest link on the planet!)  We are looking at the scalene neuro/myo/fascial bundles (Scalene Nerve and Muscle and ConnectiveTissue-or-Fascia bundles). Rolfers are trained particularly to consider and to change the connective tissue, but of course have to account for the other parts, the muscles and nerves and get them to agree.

Most connective tissues including the ones that are called fascia are not named; the shorthand for the whole bundle is the muscle name, in this case, the scalene “muscles”.

Anyway, the scalenes, all 3 pairs of them, are the biggest contributors to the hump. Other parts of the hump can include the upper part of the thoracics, the torso, including the top 3 or 4 thoracic vertebrae and the associated ribs, and of course the other associated Nerve/Muscle/Fascia bundles that are in the neck and continuous fascial connections through the whole Thoracic Outlet including all the connections to the digestive system and etc.  And blah blah, haha.

However, the scalenes are the big players.  You can see a picture of them regarding the Dowager Hump if you have a copy of Ida Rolf’s book, The Integration of Human Structures.

It is a really good idea to have a standard basic 10 series of Rolfing SI if your Dowager Hump is taking over for some reason.   When mine began to appear after a bout of shingles that aggravated the upper thoracic nerves pretty severely, I had an advanced series of Rolfing SI with Ellen Freed.

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Since I have still some nerve damage from the shingles (IMHO don’t let anyone talk you out of getting the vaccination for the shingles!) I do maintenance on a daily basis as follows, and these are good for anyone.

Here some ideas for work on your own for the Dowager Humpish:

1. Lie on your stomach. Get a good long stretch on your head and neck (going straight up if you were standing up, axial extension) and turn your face to the left and let your head rest.  Really rest.  The gravity world is not talking here, you don’t have to hold up your head.  Allow the support of the bed or floor.  (I like to do stretches like this in bed, it is softer and more relaxing.  Stay a brief time and turn your face to the right.  Really rest.  Don’t get carried away on this, brief is better, maybe 5 minutes on each side.  Just until you feel really relaxed into the posture is a good guideline for this.

If the above causes a lot of pain or even some, Don’t Do It.

2.  Lie on your back with a rolled up towel or yoga mat or some such crossways underneath your back just about armpit level or a little lower down your back.  You might have to put a pillow under your head if your head drops back too much.  With this passive stretch you are engaging not only the back, the ligamentous and gristle-y tissues of the spine including the big ligament in front of the spine, but also the front, which also may be pulling you down. Really rest, about 5 minutes or a little after you have really relaxed into the posture.

Pain, even a little pain?  Don’t do it!

This Post Has One Comment
  1. Thanks for this post. After reading it, it inspired me to have a new curiosity re the global reach of scalene tension re the whole structure in subsequent sessions today, whether re scoliosis or a thoracic spine that is totally flat.

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