Kyphosis is a seldom-occurring genetic disorder of the spine marked by a forward curvature in the upper back. Technically kyphosis is diagnosed for a spine with an upper back curvature of 50 degrees or greater. In comparison, a normal spine can bend between 20 and 45 degrees.
The spinal curve can develop simply from poor posture. If that is the case, it can often be treated with physical therapy. The outlook for improvement (the prognosis) for postural kyphosis is usually favorable.
A more serious version of kyphosis is called Scheuermann’s Kyphosis. This occurs if the vertebrae that make up the bony infrastructure of your back develops in a wedge shape. While rare, the wedge shape of the vertebrae forces the patient to bend forward. The bony structure can worsen until you reach your adult size and have stopped growing.
Congenital kyphosis is often diagnosed at birth. While noticeable at birth, the curvature can increase until the child stops growing.
Causes of Kyphosis
There is more than one cause for Syphosis to develop. Metabolic issues could be the cause. Neuromuscular disorders can also cause the upper back to develop a forward curve. Osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease marked by brittle bones, can cause kyphosis. Spina bifida, poor posture, and Scheuermann’s kyphosis can cause kyphosis. The cause of Scheuermann’s kyphosis is unknown.
The condition of spinal osteoporosis can also cause a humpbacked condition. Osteoporosis is a natural condition that develops as we age. Our bones become brittle as we age. When this occurs in the spine, the vertebrae can crack from age or injury. If the front of the vertebrae weakens first, the vertebrae will lean forward and develop a wedged shape.
The symptoms of kyphosis can be subtle or pronounced. The common symptoms are:
- back pain
- hamstring pain in the back of your thigh
- a noticeable hump, especially when bending forward
- comparing left and right, shoulders or shoulder blades form at different heights
- a head tilted forward
The most common test used to diagnose kyphosis is an X-ray. This allows doctors to get a look at your bony structures. Doctors can then check to see how severe the curve of your spine might be.
For severe cases of youth who have kyphosis, surgery may be recommended. This likely will involve vertebrae fusion, which binds neighboring vertebrae with the help of surgical screws. The operation can take several hours and will include the help of a neurophysiologist, who will observe closely to ensure the screws do not interfere with the spinal cord.
Alternative options for less severe cases could involve a combination of pain medication and physical therapy or exercises to strengthen muscles in the back or abdomen.
Braces are also prescribed. While this is a non-evasive technique, the improvements for growing children can be pronounced. Surgery is always considered a last resort measure taken if other options fail.