Scheuermann’s disease, also known as kyphosis, can happen at any age, although it is a rare occurrence at birth. It is a curving of the spine causing a rounding or bowing of the back, eventually leading to a hunchback or slouch-like posture. Its exact cause is unknown.
In adults, Scheuermann’s disease can by caused by arthritis, disk degeneration, or any degenerative issue of the spine. Compression fractures due to osteoporosis are another potential cause, as well as any injury or trauma to the spine. Another contributing factor could be spondylolisthesis in which one vertebra slips forward on another.
Other potential causes of this disease can include endocrine diseases, muscular dystrophy, polio, tumors, spina bifida, connective tissue disorders, and infections, such as tuberculosis. Scheuermann’s can also present with scoliosis (curvature of the spine).
The early symptoms of Scheuermann’s may include difficulty with breathing (usually in the most severe cases), fatigue, tolerable back pain, the appearance of a rounded back, and tenderness and/or stiffness in the spine.
A qualified health care provider can provide an accurate diagnosis to confirm the abnormal curvature of the spine. He or she will also look for any changes in the nervous system below the curve. Such changes may include weakness, paralysis, or even changes in sensation and feeling.
Diagnostic tests may include an X-ray of the spine, certain pulmonary function tests, if breathing is affected, and an MRI, if a tumor, infection, or neurological issues are suspected.
Treating Scheuermann’s disease may require corrective surgery if sustained at an early age. It can also be addressed with a brace and physical therapy. Surgery may be required for large, painful curves, such as those that are greater than 60 degrees.
Any compression fractures from osteoporosis can be left alone provided the nervous system has not been adversely affected. The osteoporosis, however, should be treated to prevent any future fractures.