Kyphosis: Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis

What Causes Kyphosis?

Kyphosis, also known as roundback or hunchback, is a condition in which the spine in the upper back has an excessive curvature. The upper back, or thoracic region of the spine, is supposed to have a slight natural curve. The spine naturally curves in the neck, upper back, and lower back to help absorb shock and support the weight of the head. Kyphosis occurs when this natural arch is larger than normal.

If you have kyphosis, you may have a visible hump on your upper back. From the side, your upper back may be noticeably rounded or protruding. In addition, people with hunchback appear to be slouching and have noticeable rounding of the shoulders. Kyphosis can lead to excess pressure on the spine, causing pain. It may also cause breathing difficulties due to pressure put on the lungs.

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Kyphosis in elderly women is known as dowager’s hump.

Common causes of kyphosis

Kyphosis can affect people of any age. It rarely occurs in newborns because it’s usually caused by poor posture. Kyphosis caused by poor posture is called postural kyphosis.

Other potential causes of kyphosis include:

  • aging, especially if you have poor posture
  • muscle weakness in the upper back
  • Scheuermann’s disease, which occurs in children and has no known cause
  • arthritis or other bone degeneration diseases
  • osteoporosis, the loss of bone strength due to age
  • injury to the spine
  • slipped discs
  • scoliosis, or spinal curvature

The following conditions less commonly lead to kyphosis:

  • infection in the spine
  • birth defects, such as spina bifida
  • tumors
  • diseases of the endocrine system
  • diseases of the connective tissues
  • polio
  • Paget’s disease
  • muscular dystrophy
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When to seek treatment for kyphosis

You should seek treatment if your kyphosis is accompanied by:

  • pain
  • breathing difficulties
  • fatigue

Much of our bodily movement depends on the health of the spine, including our:

  • flexibility
  • mobility
  • activity

Getting treatment to help correct the curvature of your spine may help you reduce the risk of complications later in life, including arthritis and back pain.

Treating kyphosis

Treatment for kyphosis will depend on its severity and underlying cause. Here are some of the more common causes and treatments:

  • Scheuermann’s disease: A child may receive physical therapy, braces, or corrective surgery.
  • Infection: Your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics for you.
  • Tumors: Typically, tumors are only removed if there’s concern for spinal cord compression. If this is present, the surgeon may try to remove the tumor, but frequently this destabilizes the bone. In such cases, a spinal fusion is often also necessary.
  • Osteoporosis: It’s essential to treat bone deterioration to prevent kyphosis from worsening.
  • Poor posture: You will not need aggressive treatments.
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The following treatments may help relieve the symptoms of kyphosis:

  • medication, to relieve pain, if necessary
  • physical therapy, to help build strength in the core and back muscles
  • yoga, to increase body awareness and build strength, flexibility, and range of motion
  • weight loss, to relieve excess burden on the spine
  • braces, especially in children and teens
  • surgery, in severe cases

Risks of untreated kyphosis

For most people, kyphosis does not cause serious health problems. This is dependent on the cause of the kyphosis. If kyphosis is caused by poor posture, you may suffer from pain and breathing difficulties. These will only get worse later in life.

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You can treat kyphosis early by:

  • strengthening the muscles of the back
  • seeing a physical therapist

Your goal will be to improve your posture long-term to decrease pain and other symptoms.

TREATMENT OF THE DERANGEMENT SYNDROME Of all patients with low back pain those having derangement of the intervertebral disc are the most interesting and rewarding to treat. As in dysfunction, it is essential in derangement that from the very first treatment correction of the sitting posture be achieved, but in the early and acute stages of derangement emphasis is placed on the maintenance of lordosis rather than the obtaining of the correct posture. Failure in this respect means failure of what otherwise might be a successful reduction of the derangement. So often it occurs that a patient describes a significant relief from pain and is visibly improved immediately following treatment, but later that same day after sitting for some time he is unable to straighten up on rising from sitting and the symptoms have returned just as they were before treatment. Usually the patient clearly understands the dangers of bending and stooping and carefully avoids these movements. But the hidden dangers of sustained flexion incurred in t...
Back pain. Predisposing and Precipitating Factors PREDISPOSING FACTORS Sitting posture There are three predisposing factors in the etiology of low back pain that overshadow most others. The first and most important factor is the sitting posture. A good sitting posture maintains the spinal curves normally present in the erect standing position. Postures which reduce or accentuate the normal curves enough to place the ligamentous structures under full stretch will eventually be productive of pain. Such postures are referred to as poor sitting postures. A poor sitting posture may produce back pain in itself without any additional other strains of living. We have all seen patients who entered an airliner, a car, or even a common lounge chair in a perfectly healthy and painfree state only to emerge hours later crippled with pain and unable to walk upright. Alternatively, a poor sitting posture will frequently enhance and always perpetuate the problems in patients suffering from low back pain. By far the great majority of patients comp...
Spine Health. PROCEDURE 4 — EXTENSION IN LYING WITH BELT FIXATION The patient’s position and the exercise are the same as in the third procedure, but now a fixating belt is placed at or just below the segments to be extended. The safety belt is the first simple external aid, used to enhance maximum extension. It does so by preventing the pelvis and lumbar spine lifting from the couch. Other methods of restraint may be used effectively, for example the body weight of a young son or daughter when exercising at home. Fig. Extension in lying with belt fixation. Effects: This procedure creates a greater and more localised passive extension stress than the previous ones. It is particularly suitable for stretching in the case of extension dysfunction, and is more often required in dysfunction than in derangement. In dysfunction some pain will be experienced in the small of the back while exercising, because contracted tissues are being stretched. In derangement the rules pertaining to the centralisation phenomenon must be observed, and the proce...
Spinal manipulation techniques There are many differing philosophies and concepts surrounding the practise of spinal manipulation and its effects on the pathologies which may exist in the spine. To satisfy all these philosophies an equal number of institutions has developed, teaching those wishing to learn. No matter what school presents its case or which philosophy is adhered to, all manipulative specialists claim to have a high success rate. They all use techniques which vary in nature, application and intent; they proclaim that their own methods are superior to those used by others; and yet, somehow they all obtain uniformly good results. Self-limitation of low back pain plays, of course, a significant role in this happy situation. Apart from this there are definite benefits which are obtained quickly by using manipulative techniques. Throughout the years I have practised many forms of mobilisation and manipulation, including osteopathic and chiropractic techniques and those taught by Cyriax. I have come to be...
The Derangements and Their Treatment DERANGEMENT ONE Central or symmetrical pain across L4/5. Rarely buttock or thigh pain No deformity In Derangement One the disturbance within the disc is at a comparatively embryonic stage. Due to minor posterior migration of the nucleus and its invasion of a small radial fissure in the inner annulus, there is a minimal disturbance of disc material. This causes mechanical deformation of structures posteriorly within and about the disc, resulting in central or symmetrical low back pain. The accumulation of disc material also leads to a minor blockage in the affected joint preventing full extension, but the blockage is not enough to force the deformity of kyphosis upon the joint. In patients with Derangement One the history, symptoms and signs are usually typical of the syndrome, and the test movements confirm the diagnosis of derangement. Because the disturbance within the joint is relatively small it responds well to the patients’ own movements, and the majority of pati...