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Are your back or shoulders more curved than they should be? Poor posture, as well as some specific health conditions, can result in a roundness of the spine called kyphosis. Kyphosis can lead to chronic stiffness and pain. If you are concerned about the curve of your back, or suffer from neck or back pain, our team at Endeavor Health Neurosciences Institute’s Advanced Neurosciences Center can help you find relief. Read on to learn about what causes kyphosis and whether kyphosis can be reversed. 

What is kyphosis?

Kyphosis is a condition that causes an abnormal forward curvature of the spine. It can affect people of any age but is most common in children and adolescents. In adults, kyphosis usually develops as part of the natural aging process.

The spine has four main sections: cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), lumbar (lower back), and sacral/coccyx (tailbone). Kyphosis can develop in any one or more of these regions, but it’s most-commonly found in the thoracic region. Thoracic kyphosis is often referred to as “round back” or “hunchback” due to its characteristic outward curve at the mid-back area. 

A doctor speaks and smiles at a patient

Symptoms of kyphosis

If your kyphosis is mild, you may not have any noticeable symptoms. However, if you have a more severe case, you may experience:

  • Rounded shoulders
  • Fatigue
  • A visible hump on the back
  • Tight hamstrings
  • Back or shoulder pain
  • Spine stiffness

If the curvature is left untreated and progresses, you may notice:

  • Numbness in the legs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bowel or bladder incontinence

Early detection and treatment of kyphosis is important, as it can prevent some of these more severe symptoms.

Diagnosing kyphosis

To diagnose kyphosis, your doctor will do a physical examination and possibly a neurological exam to test muscle strength and reflex responsiveness. They may also order imaging tests such as X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to determine the degree of spinal curvature. 

What causes kyphosis?

Kyphosis can develop due to a variety of factors: 

Many years of poor posture during childhood can weaken muscles and affect soft tissues causing the spine to curve forward. 

This condition usually starts during a growth spurt in adolescence. It occurs when poor posture causes several consecutive discs to grow into an abnormal triangular shape instead of the rectangular shape of normal vertebrae. 

Degenerative disc disease usually happens with age and can cause the discs in the spine to flatten and compress, making kyphosis worse. 

With osteoporosis, a loss of bone density occurs, which can weaken bones and cause the spine to curve. 

Decompression surgery of the neck can lead to cervical kyphosis, where the neck no longer has a natural, C-shaped curve.

Kyphosis can also be due to a birth defect, infection, injury, or genetic disorder, such as muscular dystrophy.

Treatment for kyphosis

With the proper treatment, kyphosis can be reversed. If you are diagnosed with kyphosis, your treatment will depend on the cause and the degree of curvature. At the Advanced Neurosciences, our spine specialists will work with you to determine the best plan for your unique needs. Options include: 

Specific exercises can help stretch and strengthen your back and relieve pain. They can also improve spinal flexibility.

A brace may be recommended for children with Scheuermann’s disease to help stop the curve’s progression. However, a brace will not reverse the curvature and will only work for children who are still growing. 

Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers or prescribe stronger medication as necessary to help reduce pain and inflammation. In cases where osteoporosis is the cause of kyphosis, your doctor may prescribe bone-strengthening medication to prevent spinal fractures, which could worsen your condition. 

While surgery is rare, it may be recommended in more severe cases to realign and stabilize the vertebrae. Surgical procedures are usually reserved for patients with severe pain or an abnormally curved spine that significantly affects their quality of life. Surgery carries its own risks, so it is only considered after other treatments have been attempted. At the Advanced Neurosciences, our team of surgeons uses the most advanced technology and techniques when surgery is necessary. 

What to do after a Kyphosis diagnosis

It’s important to get a proper diagnosis from a medical professional if you think you may be suffering from kyphosis. You may be concerned about how kyphosis affects how your body looks and feels. If left untreated, kyphosis can lead to further pain and discomfort and can become more severe over time. With treatment, you can avoid these complications.

The team at the Advanced Neurosciences Center is highly experienced in diagnosing and treating kyphosis. We can help take away your concerns and help pave the path to a more comfortable life. 

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