The clinical term for "dowager's hump" is kyphosis. It's a bending forward of the top part of the spine causing a rounded hump appearance. Kyphosis is not the same as scoliosis, which is an "S" curve of the spine and is usually diagnosed in childhood or adolescence (Figure 15).
Progressive kyphosis eventually causes the abdomen to protrude. It came to be known by its colloquial name "dowager's hump" because it was traditionally noted in older women. The curving of the spine is caused by the collapse of the front of the vertebrae due to tiny fractures. (Figure 6 in Question 19 shows the progression of kyphosis.)
Once you reach a certain point in the curving of the spine, the kyphosis is not reversible. Figure 15 shows the progression from a spine unaffected by osteoporosis to the point at which the kyphosis resulting from osteoporosis cannot be reversed. After your fractures are healed, it is important to begin an exercise program to prevent kyphosis and to even reverse some of the curve before it reaches the point where it cannot be reversed. Figure 16 shows exercises that can be done to stretch the muscles around the spine, increase flexibility, and reduce the likelihood of more fractures. These are great exercises to do even if you have never had a vertebral fracture, because they strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine.
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