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Buffalo Hump: How Can You Get Rid of It?

Buffalo hump can be bothersome, and people experiencing buffalo hump are looking for more scientific information and remedies, to address this discomfort. Read on to learn more about its causes and treatments.

What is buffalo hump?

A buffalo hump is defined as an area of fat accumulation at the back of the neck that forms a hump. In clinical terms, it is called a dorsocervical fat pad. Buffalo hump is a somewhat misnomer. In bison (or buffaloes), the hump is made up of muscles that help in its head movement. However, in humans, it is a fat pad.

A buffalo hump causes concerns as it affects the patient's physical appearance. Patients report feeling conscious about the condition and their appearance, which affects their social life. Since the buffalo hump is usually progressive, the concern about physical appearance may increase.

What causes buffalo hump?

The main underlying pathology behind buffalo hump is excessive glucocorticoid levels. These hormones affect the body’s fat deposits and cause fat deposition in various areas such as the abdomen, face, and the inter-scapular (in-between shoulder blades) area.

Buffalo hump can be associated with various underlying conditions. Here are a few causes:

  • Cushing's disease, is characterized by excessive production of cortisol hormone.
  • Alström syndrome, a rare genetic disorder affecting various organs, including adrenal glands.
  • Carney complex, a rare genetic disorder characterized by multiple benign tumors.
  • Pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease, is characterized by the formation of small pigmented nodules in adrenal glands.
  • Madelung’s disease, is an abnormal growth of fat deposits, including buffalo bump.

Additionally, a buffalo hump may be observed in individuals being treated with the steroid medication. Steroids such as prednisone, when taken in high doses for a prolonged time, can cause abnormal fat deposits.

Hence, the treatment of buffalo hump largely depends on its causative factors.

Diagnosing buffalo hump

Although the buffalo hump can be noticed by visual inspection, its underlying cause can be revealed by lab work. To rule out Cushing syndrome, doctors recommend these three tests:

  • 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test
  • Late-night salivary cortisol
  • 24 h urinary free cortisol

Additionally, doctors may recommend testing blood sugar levels and lipid profiles to diagnose any other metabolic disorders.

It's worth noting that the buffalo hump shares similarities with another musculoskeletal condition known as Dowager’s hump. Dowager’s hump involves a kyphotic curvature, which refers to an increased forward curvature of the spine. This curvature is commonly associated with factors such as poor posture and advancing age.

How to get rid of buffalo hump?

Dorosocervical fat pad treatment depends on the extent of fat accumulation. Treatment options include medication, surgery, and lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. Depending on the underlying cause of buffalo hump, doctors prescribe medication.

For instance, in patients with Cushing syndrome, treatments that aim to reduce increased cortisol levels, and overcome insulin resistance may be necessary. As such, a diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, or supplements may be beneficial.

At present, no natural remedies are recommended for Cushing syndrome.

Can exercise reduce buffalo hump?

A buffalo hump may be associated with Cushing syndrome resulting in muscle weakness. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist before you start exercising vigorously. Moderate aerobic, resistance, and stretching exercises are beneficial. Low-impact activities such as walking or swimming/stretching in a pool can aid in preventing muscle loss.

Exercises such as tai chi or yoga can be beneficial for weight loss and stress. High-intensity exercises such as playing racquet sports and lifting weights should be avoided prior to medical approval.

Does massage help reduce buffalo hump?

Massage is not recommended as a standard care for buffalo hump. However, massage therapy stimulates pressure receptors in the skin to increase vagal activity, causing relaxation and reduced cortisol levels. Massage therapy may help reduce the stress experienced by persons with buffalo hump. Consult a local massage therapist and your doctor if you choose to try massage therapy for buffalo hump.

Surgical treatment

In some cases, surgical treatment may be necessary. Lipectomy and ultrasound assisted liposuction (UAL) are procedures used as surgical interventions. UAL has been shown to be effective in reducing the size of the buffalo hump. This procedure is conducted by well-trained plastic surgeons. However, some patients experience re-accumulation of fat.

When to seek professional help?

A buffalo hump can be a progressive condition depending on its cause. Hence, early detection and intervention are crucial. For instance, in persons with Cushing syndrome, doctors can prescribe appropriate medication or adjust medication dosages.

In a nutshell, a buffalo hump is a deposition of fat at the back of the neck at the shoulder level. Since it is usually associated with an endocrine condition, seeking professional help in the early stages is prudent. Depending on the gravity of the situation, clinicians may advise medical treatment, surgical removal of the fat, and low-impact exercises.

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