Kyphosis occurs when the back is rounded, leading to an abnormally curved spine. In most cases, the rounding takes place in the thoracic spine (upper back). With kyphosis, a person may appear hunchbacked or like they are slouching, but it is a structural problem not easily correctable.
Although kyphosis can develop at any age, it is most common during adolescence. While kyphosis can make people self-conscious about their appearance, the spinal condition often does not require treatment and is relatively pain-free. However, in some cases, a back brace, strengthening exercises, or surgery on the rare occasion may be necessary for a person with kyphosis.
Today we are going to look at the different types of kyphosis, how it is diagnosed, and tips for managing your symptoms.
Types of Kyphosis
As you can imagine, the greater the curve in the spine, the more symptoms and problems a patient may have. For those with lesser curves, the symptoms may include mild pain, or nothing at all. Individuals with a severe curve may have a visible spinal deformity and experience more discomfort and pain.
There are several different types of kyphosis you should be aware of, including:
Postural kyphosis is the most common and typically develops during a person’s adolescence. While many assume individuals simply have poor posture, this is not the case.
Symptoms of Kyphosis
Again, many people never experience any symptoms. That being said, the most common symptoms include:
- Rounded shoulders
- A noticeable hump on the back (usually the upper back)
- Back pain
- Lack of mobility within the spine
- Tight hamstrings
Kyphosis is easily diagnosed with a physical examination. In some cases, additional tests and x-rays may be required. Many school-aged children do not realize they have this condition until they go through a scoliosis screening at school, raising a red flag. In the event you have a severe curve in the spine, Dr. Atwater may order pulmonary function tests to ensure your breathing isn’t compromised.
Tips for Managing Kyphosis
Typically, treatment focuses on stopping the progression of the condition. The effectiveness of this will of course depend on the patient’s age, the type of kyphosis, and how severe the curve in the spine is.
In mild to moderate cases, observation is the first line of treatment. By keeping a close eye on your spine, we will be able to make sure it isn’t getting worse. If the curve is becoming more severe, the following nonsurgical treatments may be recommended:
- Physical therapy to improve posture, strengthen muscles, and eliminate any back pain
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can provide short-term relief from back pain
- Bracing is a less common treatment and usually recommended for younger patients with Scheuermann’s kyphosis
If these treatments do not work and your condition is worsening, surgery may be necessary. Spinal fusion is the most common type of back surgery for this condition, something we would be happy to discuss with you.
If you would like to make an appointment with Dr. Atwater to discuss your condition, please contact Ortho Spine America today.