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Kyphosis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Kyphosis is a condition in which the spine is abnormally shaped, causing a visible hump in the upper back. In this article, you will learn more about the causes, symptoms and treatment of kyphosis.


What Causes Kyphosis?

The spine is made up of 24 rectangular-shaped bones called vertebrae which are soft discs that act as shock absorbers. The structure of the vertebrae has a slight curve and are held together by ligaments which support the back.

In the case of kyphosis, the middle section of the vertebrae, known as thoracic vertebrae is abnormally curved [1] . This makes the upper back look protruded. Kyphosis usually occurs due to poor posture or abnormally shaped vertebrae. It mostly occurs in elderly women.

Other conditions that cause kyphosis are osteoporosis, arthritis, muscle weakness in the upper back, spine injury, Scheuermann's disease, scoliosis, tuberculosis, cancer, and Paget's disease.

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Symptoms Of Kyphosis

Kyphosis caused due to poor posture is called postural kyphosis which has one symptom - it makes your back look hunched over, with the shoulders rounded forward. In cases of mild kyphosis, there are no signs or symptoms. However, some symptoms like stiffness in the upper back, tight hamstrings or back pain can emerge.

Types Of Kyphosis

1. Congenital kyphosis - It is genetic disease which is the result of malformation spine in the womb [2] . There are two types of congenital kyphosis - type 1 and type 2. Type 1 is the deformity at birth and worsens as the individual grows and type 2 is when two or more vertebrae form normal discs.

2. Scheuermann's kyphosis - It develops during adolescence which causes abnormal growth in the vertebrae [3] .

3. Degenerative kyphosis - This type of kyphosis occurs when the spine discs are leaned forward at an angle at the neck which causes as a result of excess strain activity [4] .

4. Postural kyphosis - It occurs as a result of poor posture which is the most common type of kyphosis.

5. Neuromuscular kyphosis - It happens in children with neuromuscular disorders.

6. Nutritional kyphosis - It occurs as a result of insufficient nutrients like vitamin D.

7. Latrogenic kyphosis - This type of kyphosis occur as a result of surgery in the spine [5] .

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Complications Of Kyphosis

  • Prolonged back pain
  • Weakness and numbness in the legs and arms
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Digestive problems
  • Limited physical functions

When To See A Doctor

When you notice a curved spine bulging out, immediately visit your doctor. Also if you have a stiff back, persistent back pain, tightness in the hamstrings and fever, you should visit the doctor.

Diagnosis Of Kyphosis

The doctor will conduct a physical exam and ask about your medical history. He or she may ask you to stretch to check your reflexes, movement and balance. The doctor may also conduct other tests like X-ray, nerve test, bone density tests and MRI.

Treatment Of Kyphosis

The treatment procedure will help in restoring the normal posture and preventing the curve from worsening. The treatment options are:

  • Physical therapy is done to strengthen the back muscles and abdominal muscles. This will improve the posture and relieve pressure from the spine.
  • People with Scheuermann's kyphosis are treated with spinal brace that will aid in supporting the spine to grow in a correct posture.
  • Over-the-counter pain relieving medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen sodium can treat mild pain.
  • Spinal fusion surgery may also be recommended if kyphosis is severe. It is done by joining the vertebrae together with the help of metal rods, screws and hooks.
  • Exercises like pelvic tilting, knee rolls, and knees to the chest will improve spinal flexibility and back pain.
  • Bones strengthening medications will aid in preventing further spinal fractures.

Prevention Of Kyphosis

  • Exercise daily.
  • Maintain proper posture and avoid slouching.
  • Limit the consumption of alcohol.
View Article References
  1. [1] Lewis, J. S., & Valentine, R. E. (2010). Clinical measurement of the thoracic kyphosis. A study of the intra-rater reliability in subjects with and without shoulder pain.BMC musculoskeletal disorders,11, 39.
  2. [2] McMASTER, M. J., & Singh, H. (1999). Natural history of congenital kyphosis and kyphoscoliosis. A study of one hundred and twelve patients.JBJS,81(10), 1367-1383.
  3. [3] Ali, R. M., Green, D. W., & Patel, T. C. (2000). Scheuermann's kyphosis.Current opinion in orthopaedics,11(2), 131-136.
  4. [4] Takemitsu, Y., Harada, Y., Iwahara, T., Miyamoto, M., & Miyatake, Y. (1988). Lumbar degenerative kyphosis. Clinical, radiological and epidemiological studies.Spine,13(11), 1317-1326.
  5. [5] Han, K., Lu, C., Li, J., Xiong, G. Z., Wang, B., Lv, G. H., & Deng, Y. W. (2010). Surgical treatment of cervical kyphosis.European spine journal : official publication of the European Spine Society, the European Spinal Deformity Society, and the European Section of the Cervical Spine Research Society,20(4), 523-536.

Read more about: kyphosis treatment symptoms
Story first published: Friday, March 1, 2019, 12:17 [IST]
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