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Kyphosis

What is kyphosis?

A normal spine, when viewed from behind appears straight. However, a spine affected by kyphosis shows evidence of a forward curvature of the back bones (vertebrae) in the upper back area, giving an abnormally rounded or “humpback” appearance.

Kyphosis is defined as a curvature of the spine measuring 50 degrees or greater on an x-ray (a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film). The normal spine can bend from 20 to 45 degrees of curvature in the upper back area. Kyphosis is a type of spinal deformity.

What causes kyphosis?

Kyphosis can be congenital (present at birth), or due to acquired conditions that may include the following:

  • metabolic problems
  • neuromuscular conditions
  • osteogenesis imperfecta – also called “brittle bone disease.” A condition that causes bones to fracture with minimal force.
  • spina bifida
  • Scheuermann’s disease – a condition that causes the vertebrae to curve forward in the upper back area. The cause of Scheuermann’s disease is unknown and is commonly seen in males.
  • postural kyphosis – the most common type of kyphosis. It generally becomes noticeable in adolescence and can be associated with slouching versus a spinal abnormality. Exercise is used to help correct posture.

Kyphosis is more common in females than males.

Treatment of kyphosis:

Specific treatment for kyphosis will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the condition
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, and therapies
  • expectation for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

The goal of treatment is to stop the progression of the curve and prevent deformity. According to the Scoliosis Research Society, treatment may include:

  • observation and repeated examinations The child will need observation and repeated examinations. Progression of the curve depends upon the amount of skeletal growth, or how skeletally mature, the child is. Curve progression slows down or stops after the child reaches puberty.
  • bracing If the child is still growing, the physician may prescribe a brace. The type of brace and the amount of time spent in the brace will be determined by your physician.
  • surgery In rare instances, surgery is recommended when the curve measures 75 degrees or more on x-ray and bracing is not successful in slowing down the progression of the curve.