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 FLEXION DYSFUNCTION Loss of flexion is the second most common movement loss in the lumbar spine. It manifests itself in several ways, which interfere with either the amount of available flexion or the pathway taken to achieve flexion. This type of dysfunction is commonly seen in patients with an accentuated lordosis. Patients with significant flexion dysfunction are usually unable to sit slouched with a convex lumbar spine. When giving postural instructions to these patients, we must explain that once sitting relaxed they place the lumbar spine on full stretch much sooner than patients with a normal flexion excursion. Fig. Recovery of loss offlexion, using the procedure of flexion in standing. Recovery of pure flexion loss To regain flexion we must, just as in the case of extension dysfunction, explain to the patient the purpose of performing exercises. Again, we must stress the necessity of causing a moderate degree of discomfort or pain with the exercises. Pain produced by stretching of contra...
Spine Health. PROCEDURE 13 — FLEXION IN LYING The patient lies supine with the knees and hips flexed to about forty-five degrees and the feet flat on the couch. He bends the knees up towards the chest, firmly clasps the hands about them and applies overpressure to achieve maximum stress. The knees are then released and the feet placed back on the couch. The sequence is repeated about ten times. The first two or three flexion stresses are applied cautiously, but when the procedure is found to be safe the remaining pressures may become successively stronger, the last two or three being applied to the maximum possible. Fig. Flexion in lying. Effects: Flexion in lying causes a stretching of the posterior wall of the annulus, the posterior longitudinal ligament, the capsules of the facet joints, and other soft tissues. As the movement takes place from below upwards the lower lumbar and lumbo-sacral joints are placed on full stretch at the beginning of the exercise as soon as movement is initiated. Thus, the procedure is very i...
Intervertebral discs Figure. The adult vertebral column and typical vertebrae in each region, lateral views. There are at least 24 intervertebral discs interposed between the vertebral bodies: six in the cervical, twelve in the thoracic and five in the lumbar region, with one between the sacrum and coccyx. (Additional discs may be present between fused sacral segments.) The discs account for approximately one-quarter of the total length of the vertebral column, and are primarily responsible for the presence of the various curvatures. On descending the vertebral column, the discs increase in thickness, being thinnest in the upper cervical region and thickest in the lower lumbar. In the upper thoracic region, however, the discs appear to narrow slightly. In the cervical region the disc is about two-fifths the height of the vertebrae, being approx-imately 5 mm thick. In the thoracic region the discs average 7 mm in thickness, so that they are one-quarter of the height of the vertebral bodies. The discs in ...
TREATMENT OF SIDE GLIDING DYSFUNCTION — CORRECTION OF SECONDARY LATERAL SHIFT Having observed thousands of lumbar spines it has become clear to me that asymmetry is the ‘norm’ and symmetry is almost atypical. Therefore, when examining dysfunction patients it is important to realise that many exhibit a minor scoliosis or lateral shift, the direction of which is sometimes extremely difficult to determine. With careful observation it can be seen that the top half of the patient’s body is not correctly related to the bottom half, and the patient has shifted laterally about the lumbar area. The anomalies include a number of lateral shifts now dysfunctional in character. These lateral shifts are referred to as secondary whereas those caused by derangement are primary. Fig. Recovery of loss of side gliding, leaching the procedure of self-correction of secondary lateral shift. As discussed previously, we must determine whether the lateral shift is relevant to the present symptoms or is merely a congenital or developmental anomaly. If side gliding produces pain the...
Spine Health. PROCEDURE 12 — ROTATION MANIPULATION IN FLEXION The sequence of procedure 11 must be followed completely to perform the required pre-manipulative testing. If the manipulation is indicated a sudden thrust of high velocity and small amplitude is performed, moving the spine into extreme side bending and rotation. Fig. Rotation manipulation in flexion. Effects: There are many techniques devised for rotation manipulation of the lumbar spine. When rotation of the lumbar spine is achieved by using the legs of the patient as a lever or fulcrum of movement, confusion arises as to the direction in which the lumbar spine rotates. This is judged by the movement of the upper vertebrae in relation to the lower — for example, if the patient is lying supine and the legs are taken to the right, then the lumbar spine rotates to the left. It has become widely accepted that rotation manipulation of the spine should be performed by rotation away from the painful side. This has applied to derangement as well as dysfunction, because hitherto n...