I went to a chiropractor a few weeks ago when I thought I had a turned rib. Turned out I had a pulled muscle. X-rays of my spine from side and back views were taken and I'm very glad they were.
The x-rays show that for the most part (other than a touch of scoliosis I've had since childhood) my spine was in great shape. The vertebrae were nicely spaced on the front and the back, nicely aligned, and showed no wear or inflammation except for the front of four of my thoracic vertebrae.
Whenever I have visualized or thought about my spine in the past I've always thought about the back of it, from the back of my skull right down to the tip of my sacrum. The x-ray showed that the front of those four vertebrae were rounded off in front and a little bumpy. The chiropractor called it early arthritis and commonly seen in women as they age. One part of reason she gave for that is breasts. From the spine's point of view, breasts are extra weight pulling forward and down. It is that extra weights that often contributes to a forward rounding of the spine that in its extreme is commonly known as a dowager's hump.
Dowager's hump: An abnormal outward curvature of the vertebrae of upper back. Compression of the front (anterior) portion of the involved vertebrae leads to forward bending of the spine (kyphosis) and creates a hump at the upper back.
Dowager's hump is due to osteoporosis changes in the thoracic spine. It may affect men or women. Like most osteoporotic changes, it is often preventable.
Emphasis mine. Image: notice that as the condition progresses the vertebrae actually start to fracture.
There are several things in my life that contribute:
1) slumping in front of my computer for hours at work
2) driving the same way
3) consciously pulling down and forward for 10 years of training sanchin stance.
The first two are bad habits and the last one is improper training. I misunderstood when I was told to compress and I compressed more forward rather than all around. Not in any kind of dramatic fashion mind you, just enough that it was probably 10 or 15% for forward than even.
So the very next day in my training I focused on visualizing the opening and evening of the front of my spine. After 2-3 days things felt tender, better, and I had terrible headaches each of those days.
So I write this as a reminder to myself and as a cautionary tale for others.
I want to train for a long time and I want that training to help me be healthy when I'm old.