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Kyphosis & Spinal Deformities

What is Kyphosis?

Kyphosis is a form of spinal deformity that occurs when the thoracic spine (or upper back) develops a forward hump.

The spine has two alternating curves: inward (lordosis) and outward (kyphosis). These two types of curves give balance and stability to your spine. Moreover, these traits allow us to achieve an ideal range of motion while doing our day-to-day tasks. If either of these curves becomes too extreme, problems can occur. Kyphosis refers to an extreme outward curve of the thoracic or lumbar spine, causing a hunched back.

The causes of kyphosis can vary greatly. For example, two major risk factors include having osteoporosis or low bone density. This disorder may also be congenital, or present at birth. Additionally, kyphosis can develop because of:

  • Disc Degeneration
  • Degenerative Arthritis
  • Cancers or Cancer treatment
  • Spinal Infections
  • Metabolic Issues
  • Neuromuscular Conditions
  • Brittle Bone Disease (Osteogenesis Imperfecta)
  • Spina Bifida
  • Scheuermann’s Kyphosis (abnormally curved spine during childhood)
  • Postural Kyphosis (slouched posture)

Those with certain syndromes such as Marfan syndrome or Prader-Willi disease may also be more likely to develop kyphosis.

What Are The Main Types Of Kyphosis?

Kyphosis is a broad condition with a variety of causes that may appear in either children or adults. The causes of kyphosis will often define the severity of the disease, the course of treatment, and your outlook. A few of the most common types of kyphosis are:

  • Postural Kyphosis: The most common form of kyphosis, often noticed during adolescence. Viewed as poor posture or slouching, it is caused by the weakening of muscles in the back. Vertebrae typically keep their normal shape and a severe curve usually does not develop.
  • Scheuermann’s Kyphosis: Also known as Scheuermann’s disease, Calvé disease, and juvenile osteochondrosis of the spine, Scheuermann’s Kyphosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine in children, causing a hunched back. It occurs during a child’s development when the back of vertebral body grows at a normal rate but the front of the vertebral body grows at a slower rate. This causes the vertebrae to grow in a wedge shape, making the stacked spinal column bend forward.
  • Congenital Kyphosis: Usually seen in infants or young children. It is caused by a defect of the spine in utero. This often worsens with growth and can lead to vertebral fusion. Unlike other forms of kyphosis, Congenital Kyphosis can require surgery.
  • Degenerative Kyphosis: Caused by wear and tear over time, the weakening of bones in the spine makes them prone to compression fractures. These fractures often result in wedge-shaped vertebrae that create a kyphotic curve in the spine. Degenerative Kyphosis is usually caused by an additional disorder such as osteoporosis, disc degeneration, or spinal arthritis.

What Are Less Common Types of Kyphosis?

Other, less common, types of kyphosis include:

  • Traumatic Kyphosis: Caused by improper healing of the bones or ligaments in the spine after an injury or fracture.
  • Iatrogenic Kyphosis: Caused by previous spine treatment or surgeries, such as a laminectomy.
  • Neuromuscular Kyphosis: Caused by disorders that affect spine growth such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy.
  • Nutritional Kyphosis: Caused by vitamin deficiencies during childhood, such as vitamin D

How Do I Know If I Have The Symptoms of Kyphosis?

As with many spine conditions and deformities, symptoms will vary depending on the degree of spinal curvature. In mild to moderate cases of kyphosis, patients may experience the following symptoms (These will generally stay constant instead of worsening with time):

  • Poor Posture: A hunched back with a distinct “hump”
  • Uneven Shoulders: Uneven shoulder blade height or position
  • Head Position: A forward-leaning head
  • Pain: Back pain and stiffness
  • Muscle Aches: Muscle fatigue, spasms, or cramps
  • Stiff Hamstrings: Tightness in the hamstrings
  • Inflammation: Redness of the skin along the curve
  • Unsteadiness: Trouble with balance

People with more severe cases of kyphosis may notice the above symptoms getting worse. Additionally, rare cases have been found to pinch the spinal cord or constrict internal organs such as the heart or lungs. If you experience any of the following, seek medical attention:

  • Weakness or loss of sensation
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

However, symptoms do not always appear in the same way for every patient. For some, the symptoms may be minor and emerge gradually. However, other patients will see a rapid onset of changes. Regardless of their intensity, it is best to monitor symptoms with the help of a practiced physician.

How Dr. Lowenstein Can Help

Dr. Jason Lowenstein, kyphosis expert, is one of Castle Connolly’s top-rated doctors. He is renowned for his ability to treat spine conditions and solve abnormalities. Working with you through the diagnostic process, the Lowenstein team will help you find a solution to manage your kyphosis. We will diagnose your condition using your medical history, a physical exam, and imaging tests including x-rays. Due to the wide variety of causes for this condition, it is important to assess the patient’s medical history very carefully. This may include looking at developmental milestones, family histories, or previous spine problems. Early detection is key to the successful treatment of this condition!

Treatment options for kyphosis vary depending on the severity of the condition, the patient’s age, and medical history. You can use physical therapy, muscle strengthening exercises, and medication such as pain relievers or anti-inflammatories to treat many types of kyphosis. Your doctor may prescribe corrective bracing for cases of kyphosis that affect children or adolescents.

In more severe cases, especially those that cause severe deformity, you may need surgical treatment in order to restore your health and confidence. With the Lowenstein team, you can trust that your spine will receive the right treatment, at the right time. Call Dr. Lowenstein today to ensure the long-term health of your spine!