Kyphosis is referred as curving of the spine that leads to rounding of the back. It can occur at any age, but it is commonly seen in older women. Kyphosis leads to a hunchback or slouching posture and may also cause back pain, stiffness, and an altered gait or walking pattern. Kyphosis often occurs in older age due to weak spinal bones. Kyphosis in infants or teens is due to malformation of the spine or wedging of the spinal bones. Severe kyphosis can cause pain and lead to disfiguring.

Types of kyphosis

The types of kyphosis are postural, Scheuermann's, and congenital.

  • Postural Kyphosis is an increased curve in the upper spine. It can be caused by slouching. It is most common in teenagers.
  • Scheuermann's Kyphosis usually occurs in puberty. It leads to rounding of the back during the growth.
  • Congenital Kyphosis is the abnormal development of the spine in the womb. Kyphosis can also be present at birth due to conditions such as Marfan syndrome or Prader-Willi disease.

Signs and Symptoms of Kyphosis

The symptoms of Kyphosis include:

  • Fatigue
  • Tiredness
  • Mild back pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Stiffness in the spine
  • Tenderness in the spine
  • Round back appearance

Causes of Kyphosis

Kyphosis occurs when the vertebrae in the upper back become more cured than normal. Usually, a normal curve is common in every individual but a curve of more than 45 is problematic. This can be caused by many reasons such as:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Disk degeneration
  • Scheuermann's disease
  • Birth defects, syndromes
  • Cancer treatments
  • Trauma
  • Spondylolisthesis

Some other causes of Kyphosis include, tumors, spina bifida, polio scoliosis, Paget disease, neurofibromatosis, muscular dystrophy, some endocrine diseases, connective tissue disorders, infections such as tuberculosis.

The diagnosis of Kyphosis involves a physical examination along with neurological examination to check reflexes. If numbness or muscle weakness is observed, doctors may recommend several tests to determine nerve impulses that travel between spinal cord and extremities. Some imaging tests that are helpful in the diagnosis of Kyphosis include:

X-ray: X-rays help in determining the degree of curvature and help in detecting deformities of the vertebrae, which in turn helps identify the type of kyphosis.
CT scan: Cross-sectional X-ray images are taken from different angles to identify the internal structures and deformities. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): High frequency radio waves and a very strong magnet are used to produce detailed images of bone and soft tissues. It helps to detect a tumor or infection that is causing Kyphosis.
Bone Density Test: is required to know whether the Kyphosis is due to osteoporosis.
Pulmonary Function Tests: If breathlessness is observed as a symptom, the doctors may suggest this test.

The Kyphosis treatment depends on the cause and symptoms that are present. The doctors may suggest over-the-counter pain relieving medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. If the Kyphosis is due to osteoporosis, then the treatment basically involves treating osteoporosis. Bone-strengthening drugs help to prevent additional spinal fractures.

Physical therapy exercises help in improving spinal flexibility and posture. The exercises usually include stretching and strengthening exercises. The progression of Scheuermann's Kyphosis in children can be stopped body bracing. It is called Kyphosis brace. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle (body weight and regular physical activity) will help in preventing back pain and relieve symptoms from kyphosis. Maintaining healthy bone density can decrease the risk of osteoporosis and eventually Kyphosis.

Surgery: If the curve and symptoms are very severe, a kyphosis surgery may be suggested to reduce the degree of curvature. The surgical procedure is called spinal fusion and it involves connection of the affected vertebrae with pieces of bone, metal rods, and screws. This process helps in correcting the posture.