Kyphosis

The human spine is a miracle of engineering. Its gently curved shape allows for maximum flexibility and fluid movement. However, when the spine’s front-to-back curvature becomes abnormal (resulting in slumped shoulders or a “hunchback”), it is called kyphosis. This abnormal curvature (kyphosis) can be painful and interfere with proper balance and posture.

Types of Kyphosis

Kyphosis may be mild or severe. Very mild kyphosis causes few problems and may not require treatment. More severe types of kyphosis may require medical treatment.
There are three main types of kyphosis:

  • Scheuermann’s disease
  • Post-traumatic kyphosis
  • Senile kyphosis

Scheuermann’s disease occurs in children, senile kyphosis occurs in the elderly, and post-traumatic kyphosis can happen to anyone at any age following an accident.

Scheuermann’s Disease

Scheuermann’s disease starts in childhood or adolescence and causes the vertebrae to become more wedge-shaped in the front. These abnormally shaped vertebrae, over time, cause the spine to angle forward and creates a curve in the upper back. Scheuermann’s kyphosis is more common in boys than girls, and it is usually diagnosed in adolescence as the abnormal curvature becomes more obvious. It may be accompanied by back pain.

Scheuermann’s disease may benefit from physical therapy or short-term treatment using a back brace. In some cases, the condition improves on its own. In other cases, surgical correction may be required. If surgery is necessary, it is usually postponed until the child’s spine has stopped growing and is fully mature.

Post-Traumatic Kyphosis

An accident or injury can cause kyphosis. A vehicular accident, fall, or other trauma can fracture the spine and cause a deformity that leads to kyphosis. This type of kyphosis is associated with significant pain and may be disabling. It often occurs in the lower or mid back where it compresses nerves and can strain ligaments and muscles. In many cases, post-traumatic kyphosis can be successfully treated with surgery.

Senile Kyphosis

With age, degenerative conditions and certain diseases can affect the spine. In particular, osteoporosis, cancer, and the long-term use of certain drugs (including steroids) can decrease bone mass and cause fractures that ultimately change the shape of the spine. Senile kyphosis is usually accompanied by spinal fractures which can cause the vertebrae to collapse. These changes result in a change of the spine’s curvature.

Senile kyphosis may occur gradually and symptoms may be mild to severe. Over time, senile kyphosis can result in difficulties sleeping and breathing.

The treatment of senile kyphosis often involves first treating the underlying condition (for example, osteoporosis) and then using non-surgical treatments or minimally invasive surgery to correct the problem.

Conclusion

Kyphosis refers to an abnormal curvature of the spine that causes a “hunchback” type of posture. Kyphosis may occur gradually (Scheuermann’s kyphosis, senile kyphosis) or it may occur suddenly as the result of trauma. Symptoms likewise range from mild to severe, and severe kyphosis may be associated with pain, postural problems, imbalance, and difficulty breathing. There are many ways to treat kyphosis, which may vary based on the patient’s age, the type of kyphosis, and how severe the symptoms are. The Neuro Spinal Hospital offers specialised care for patients with kyphosis and can recommend the latest treatment options.