(Roundback of the Spine; Congenital Kyphosis; Postural Kyphosis; Scheuermann’s Kyphosis; Hunchback)
Kyphosis is a rounding or curve to the spine. A certain degree of normal curve is seen in the spine. This article refers to an abnormally rounded back. The abnormal kyphosis is in the thoracic spine (along ribs). The three main types of kyphosis are:
- Postural kyphosis—the most common abnormal type and is caused by bad posture
- Congenital kyphosis—a type that babies are born with
- Scheuermann’s kyphosis—a type that runs in families and appears during the teenage years
The sooner kyphosis is treated, the better the outcome. If you think you may have this condition, contact your doctor.
Kyphosis can start at any age. It can have various causes, including:
These factors increase your chance of kyphosis. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
- Marfan syndrome or other tissue disease
- Condition that weakens bones, like osteoporosis
- Adolescence for postural or Scheuermann’s
- Elderly with osteoporosis and spine fractures
- Boys for Scheuermann’s kyphosis
- Girls for postural kyphosis
If you have any of these, do not assume it is due to kyphosis. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
- Excess curve or hump in the back
- Back pain
- Fatigue in back and legs
- Stiffness in back
- Breathing difficulty may occur in some cases
Most cases can be diagnosed during a physical exam. Some cases are found at school during a scoliosis check. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done to look for abnormal curve in the spine, rounded shoulders, and a hump on the back. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist in spine problems.
Tests may include the following:
- X-ray of the spine—test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body
- Pulmonary function tests—measure how well you are able to breath; some severe cases of kyphosis can impair breathing
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Options include the following:
Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist to learn specific exercises. This may include strength work, stretching, and overall conditioning. You may also be taught how to maintain a correct posture. You may be instructed to sleep on a firm mattress.
Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be given for pain or discomfort. Medicine may be given to treat any underlying conditions, like osteoporosis.
Braces are sometimes used. They can help correct kyphosis or reduce discomfort.
Surgery is reserved for severe cases. In this case the spine is straightened by fusing the back bones (vertebrae) together. Surgeons may use bone from the pelvis to fuse the back bones. A metal rod may also be inserted into the spine to help straighten it.
Kyphosis is also sometimes treated with special cement. The cement is injected into the back bones affected.
of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Hu SS, Tribus CB, Tay BK, Bhatia NN. Diagnosis & Treatment in Orthopedics . 4th edition. United States: McGraw-Hill; 2006: Chapter 5. Disorders, Diseases, & Injuries of the Spine.
Kyphosis. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/kyphosis/DS00681 . Accessed November 3, 2008.
Kyphosis. Merck Manual website. Available at: http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec23/ch278/ch278c.html . Accessed November 3, 2008.
Kyphosis (Roundback) of the spine. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00423 . Accessed November 3, 2008.
Last reviewed November 2008 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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