Buffalo hump refers to a fatty deposit at the base of the neck between the shoulders that may make the back look abnormally humped. Because of how it looks, it can affect the self-confidence of those who have it.
It might also make them feel more conscious about the kind of clothes they wear in order to keep the lump hidden. That is one reason why many people seek buffalo hump removal surgery.
However, that’s not all. While your weight can be the reason why this bump might exist, it can also be indicative of more serious health problems like a tumour.
It can also cause functional issues, affecting the mobility of your neck, resulting in things like poor sleep, difficulty working, reading, driving, doing sports, etc. It may also cause physical symptoms like pain. In this guide, you’ll learn more about what you can do to get rid of this buffalo hump.
What Is A Buffalo Hump?
A buffalo hump is a “dorsocervical” – between the shoulder blades at the back of the neck – fat pad that can be caused by:
- Antiretroviral therapy – One complication of this treatment is HIV-associated lipodystrophy, which results in the redistribution of fat. While it can cause fat loss, it can also result in fat accumulation. The latter can result in a buffalo hump.
- Madelung’s disease – It’s a very rare disease that’s easily confused with obesity because of the characteristic accumulation of fat deposits in different parts of the body, including the neck.
- Cushing syndrome – It’s when the body produces excess cortisol, a stress hormone and affects fat distribution in the body, which can also lead to a hump at the back of the neck. It can be caused by glucocorticoid medication or tumours on the adrenal gland, pituitary (in which case it’s called Cushing’s disease) lung, thyroid, pancreas, and thymus.
- Obesity – Fat deposition around the neck can also be a result of obesity, which is when the body fat is abnormally high.
- Glucocorticoids – It can also result in excess cortisol production by the body, which can leave you with a buffalo hump. It’s used for skin problems, cancer, autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, adrenal insufficiency, asthma, allergies, etc.
It should be noted that having a buffalo hump isn’t the same as having “kyphosis,” which can be caused by poor posture, osteoporosis, injury, or spinal issues. In kyphosis, it’s the spine that curves abnormally and results in a hump.
Whether or not you have a buffalo hump or kyphosis can be best diagnosed by your doctor. They may do an MRI, CT scan or an X-ray to check if the problem is due to your spine or fat.
Can A Buffalo Hump Be Removed?
It’s possible to remove a buffalo hump with or even without surgery. Most commonly, however, it’s removed through a cosmetic surgery called liposuction, which “suctions” out fat or fatty tissue (lipo) from different parts of the body.
Other than that, fat-dissolving injections like Aqualyx have also been used to reduce the size of the dorsocervical fat pad, but they might not be as effective.
How To Remove Buffalo Hump?
To remove buffalo fat hump, your doctor will first have to assess the underlying cause of the problem. As mentioned above, it can be due to glucocorticoids, which may require an adjustment in your treatment plan (only after consultation with the doctor).
Your doctor may also advise you to adjust your diet. But when it comes to different treatment options, they’re usually as follows:
A common and effective way to get rid of buffalo humps is liposuction. It can take place under local anaesthesia, sedation or general anaesthesia. The surgeon makes a small incision, uses a cannula to break the fat, attaches a vacuum to it, and takes the fat out of the target area.
Afterwards, they’ll stitch the skin back up, and the entire procedure will take between 30 minutes to 2 hours. But it should be noted that even after getting removed through liposuction, a buffalo hump can grow back.
Aqualyx uses a “gel-based aqueous solution” to non-surgically get rid of fatty deposits in the body. It destroys the fat cells within the body, which then does the job of eliminating it.
There’s already a local anaesthetic in the injection, so you won’t need anaesthesia separately for it. Still, your practitioner may apply a numbing cream.
Research has shown that these injections can be used to reduce the size of the fat pad at the back of the neck. It can take a few months for you to see the final results, though.
One case study published in The European Journal of Aesthetic Medicine and Dermatology reported a 52-year-old man with HIV who had a buffalo hump. He had 3 sessions (1 a month) and was able to reduce the size of his buffalo hump by 2.4mm.
Will Buffalo Hump Go Away With Weight Loss?
Your doctor may advise you to exercise and diet to lose the buffalo hump since it is essentially a fat deposit. However, if you’ve tried weight loss and it hasn’t worked for you, you should discuss this with your doctor to explore other options.
Can Buffalo Hump Be Massaged Out?
It’s unlikely that you can massage out a buffalo hump because the underlying fat deposits need to be addressed.
Massaging is not the equivalent of exercise, and while it may provide you some comfort, you shouldn’t just rely on it to get rid of your buffalo hump. You should seek the advice of a medical professional first.
Is Buffalo Hump Removal Painful?
Buffalo hump removal surgery is not painful because it takes place under anaesthesia. You might experience pain after the surgery, but your doctor might prescribe painkillers to you for its management.
On the other hand, if you’re getting an injection for buffalo hump removal, it shouldn’t be painful, either.
What Are The Side Effects of Buffalo Hump Removal?
Since liposuction for buffalo hump will be an invasive surgery, it can cause the following side effects:
- Friction burns from cannula
But keep in mind that while Aqualyx is a non-surgical treatment, it can also cause side effects like swelling, bruising, numbness, irritation, redness, itchiness, tingling or a burning sensation.
What Is The Recovery Of Buffalo Hump Removal?
Recovery from buffalo hump removal surgery might take about 1 week, but fat-dissolving injections don’t have any downtime at all.
In the case of liposuction, you’ll have to avoid physical activity for a while and wait for 3-6 months to see the final results because the swelling can take some time to go.
For Aqualyx, your doctor might advise you to stay very hydrated and even do a massage. But as far as the results are concerned, you will see them gradually in a few months’ time.
How Much Is Buffalo Hump Removal?
In the UK, buffalo hump removal surgery might cost you anywhere between £3,000 and £4,000.
It can depend on how experienced your surgeon is, where the clinic is located, and the type of anaesthesia used, among other factors. But in Turkey, you can get the same surgery for around £1,500 due to the low cost of living and currency exchange.
In contrast, fat-dissolving injections will cost you less, with each session being around £300. There, too, prices can vary.
Is Buffalo Hump Removal Covered By Insurance?
If you need a buffalo hump removal for cosmetic reasons, insurance won’t cover it. But if it’s affecting your physical functioning or causing symptoms, you might be able to make a case with your insurance company. In any case, you should check with them about its coverage.
Buffalo hump removal is not so much a common problem, but those who have it might want to get rid of it simply because of how it looks. Keep in mind, however, that a buffalo hump is different from a hump that might form due to a bad posture.
So, to seek the right treatment, you should consult an experienced and board-certified medical professional. And if you’re getting surgery or injections for it, make sure that you understand what you can expect and know about any potential side effects or complications.
Reviewed and approved by Prof Dr Fuat Yuksel