How to Correct or Disguise a Dowager's Hump

What do Emma Watson, Marissa Mayer, and Ivanka Trump have in common? They are beautiful, intelligent, and ambitious, but they also share a distinctive feature.

Embed from Getty Images

What they have in common is a pronounced curvature in the upper spine, also known as a dowager’s hump. Common explanations for the cause of a dowager’s hump are weak back muscles, osteoporosis, or poor posture. However, another explanation is emotional startle patterning.

Well-trained personal stylists are taught to notice distinctive features in people’s bodies so that we can create visual balance with clothing and accessories, but I prefer to suggest correcting the problem, for a more permanent solution, and so the client isn’t limited to a few signature styles (unless that’s what they prefer).

Embed from Getty Images

Usually the suggestions for correcting a dowager’s hump are back strengthening exercises or fixing one’s posture forcefully (such as through yoga “chest opening”). A much simpler, and more direct, solution is Structural Integration (sometimes referred to as Rolfing — technically they are different, since rolfing practitioners have split from the structural integration school of practice as taught by creator Ida Rolf). In a 10-series, a structural integrationist will work through various parts of your body over ten sessions and very gently break up the fascia that is holding your body in misalignment.

Structural Integration is known to be painful. It was for me. Highly skilled practitioners use a very light touch, but they hit the right spots and some of them are extremely tender. Luckily the pain is temporary, and you can breathe through it. It took about 14 sessions (4 extra after the initial 10-series) to get me into basic alignment, and it was worth the time and monetary investment, and all of the temporary pain. Not only did the work correct my curved shoulders, it also allowed me to sit upright and on my sit bones for the first time in my life. I no longer have to sit on a chair or on the floor with a curved back. (Yoga did not solve this problem, despite the forceful effort of some aggressive yoga teachers.)

Embed from Getty Images

If a client isn’t interested in correcting the dowager’s hump, or they need clothes right away, there are certainly ways to disguise a dowager’s hump through clothing. Since Ivanka is so frequently photographed, it was fairly easy to find a couple of photos of her in outfits that disguise the curve in her back. First up is by tying a sweater around her shoulders. The sweater adds volume at the back of her shoulders, filling in the space where her back curves.

Embed from Getty Images

Another great way to disguise a dowager’s hump is by using collars that stand up at the back of one’s shoulders. The collar balances out the curve and fills in the space. It also frames one’s face beautifully.

Embed from Getty Images

Yet another way to disguise the curve is to wear a busy print, as seen on Marissa, so the eye is distracted and cannot make sense of the side-view silhouette easily.

Embed from Getty Images

While the dowager’s hump is an unfortunate and common feature on many women’s bodies (unfortunate because of the emotional patterning), it is reassuring that it can be corrected and/or disguised fairly easily.

For more information on Structural Integration, visit the Guild for Structural Integration and find a Structural Integrationist near you.