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What is kyphosis?

Kyphosis, a condition characterized by excessive outward curvature of the spine, is a concern that affects the upper back in the thoracic region. This abnormality may result in a hunched or slouched appearance, commonly referred to as "hunchback" or "roundback." The natural curves of the spine, supporting proper posture and upright stance, can be impaired by this excessive curvature.

While kyphosis typically does not pose health risks or warrant medical intervention, it may impact self-perception in terms of physical appearance. However, in severe cases, kyphosis can lead to pain or breathing difficulties, necessitating surgical intervention for severe correction.

There are several types of kyphosis that individuals may experience. Some of the most common forms are:

  • Postural kyphosis This is the most frequently encountered type and typically occurs during adolescence. Poor posture or slouching can lead to ligament and muscle stretching, resulting in the displacement of vertebrae (spinal bones). Postural kyphosis is generally not accompanied by pain.
  • Scheuermann's kyphosis This type is characterized by vertebrae that possess an atypical shape, deviating from the usual rectangular structure. Instead, the bones have a wedge shape, which causes the spine to appear rounded. Scheuermann's kyphosis can be a source of discomfort, especially during physical activity or prolonged periods of standing or sitting.
  • Congenital kyphosis This condition is present at birth and arises when the development of the spine is incomplete or abnormal in the womb. The severity of this type of kyphosis can increase as an individual grows.


What are the symptoms of kyphosis?

The following symptoms are commonly associated with kyphosis. However, each individual may experience them differently. Symptoms that may indicate kyphosis include:

  • Forward bending of the head in comparison to the rest of the body
  • Difference in shoulder blade height or position
  • Increased height of the upper back when bending forward
  • Tension in the hamstrings (back thigh) muscles
  • Occasional back pain, though rarely severe enough to impact normal activity
  • Sometimes referred to as "poor posture," "humpback," or "hunchback."

What are the causes of Kyphosis?

Several factors can influence the shape of vertebrae, including:

  • Disc degeneration

    Circular discs between spinal vertebrae act as cushions. Over time, these discs flatten and shrink, exacerbating kyphosis.

  • Osteoporosis

    Weakened bones can cause spinal curvature, particularly if the vertebrae are prone to compression fractures. Osteoporosis primarily affects older women and individuals who have taken corticosteroids for extended periods.

  • Scheuermann's disease

    This condition, also called Scheuermann’s kyphosis, typically emerges during the growth spurt preceding puberty.

  • Fractures

    Broken vertebrae can result in spinal curvature. The most common type is compression fractures, often occurring in weakened bones. Mild compression fractures may not exhibit noticeable signs or symptoms.

  • Other factors

    Improper development of spinal bones before birth can contribute to kyphosis. Additionally, certain medical conditions, like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, may be associated with kyphosis in children.

What are the treatments for Kyphosis?

Treatment options for kyphosis at NeuroSpine Plus may include:

  • Lifestyle changes

    Maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent pain and may relieve some symptoms associated with kyphosis.

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers

    Acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), naproxen (Aleve) or stronger prescription pain medication can be used for pain management.

  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements

    These supplements can slow the progression of kyphosis, especially if you have a family history of osteoporosis.

  • Spinal brace

    At NeuroSpine Plus, your doctor may prescribe a spinal brace for pain relief, although it will not correct the condition.

  • Physical therapy and exercise

    Our team at NeuroSpine Plus will guide you through specialized physical therapy exercises to help improve your kyphosis.

  • Spinal fusion surgery

    In severe cases, spinal fusion surgery may be considered. This procedure involves permanently connecting two or more affected vertebrae to reduce the degree of curvature and alleviate pinched nerves.


Less than 8% of school-aged children in the United States are affected by Scheuermann’s kyphosis, a condition that causes an abnormal forward curvature of the upper spine.

Hyperkyphosis, which refers to severe kyphosis, is estimated to affect 20% to 40% of adults over the age of 60. As individuals age, the forward angle of the upper spine typically increases by approximately 3 degrees per decade (10 years).

At NeuroSpine Plus, our healthcare providers rely on spine X-rays to evaluate the curvature of your spine and diagnose kyphosis. In normal cases, the natural curve typically ranges between 20 and 45 degrees. However, when the curve exceeds 50 degrees, our specialists can confirm the presence of kyphosis.

To ensure accurate diagnosis and understand the impact of the spinal curve on your body, NeuroSpine Plus offers additional tests. These tests include a pulmonary function test, which assesses the functionality of your lungs, and an MRI scan to detect any pressure exerted on the spinal nerves due to the curvature.

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