The term kyphosis refers to excessive forward curving of the back. Sometimes the curving is normal, sometimes it is exaggerated. The condition can appear at any age, but it is very common among older women. Kyphosis usually occurs in older people when the spinal bones are getting weaker due to osteoporosis. The bones can compress or crack. In children it occurs due to wedging or malformation of the spine over time. If the kyphosis is mild it can cause only few problems. However, if it is severe it can cause great pain and disfiguration. The treatment will depend on the cause and effects of the rounding and the age of the patient.
In most of the cases, kyphosis can cause stiffness and back pain alongside the obvious abnormal rounding of the spine. However, the symptoms can be unnoticeable when the condition is mild.
If abnormal curving of the upper back is noticed in adults or in children, it is recommendable to visit a doctor who can help lessen the condition.
Kyphosis appears when the vertebrae in the upper back that make up a healthy spine have the shape of a wedge rather than cylinder. The deformity happens due to variety of problems, such as:
- Osteoporosis-disorder that makes the bones thinner; it affects mostly older people, especially women and people who had been on a pill therapy with corticosteroids for long time
- Degeneration of the disk-the soft, circular disk that acts like a cushion between the spinal vertebrae shrinks and dries with age what makes the kyphosis worse
- Birth defect-if a baby’s spinal column hasn’t developed properly in the mother’s womb it may result in kyphosis
- Syndromes-such as: Marfan syndrome or Prader-Willi disease
- Scheuermann’s disease-disease that usually affects boys; it begins during the growth spurt before puberty and the curving can be worsen when the boy stops growing
- Cancer and its treatments-spine cancer and chemotherapy and radiation treatments weaken the vertebrae and make them more susceptible to fractures
Sometimes, postural kyphosis can occur among teenagers. It doesn’t include any deformities of the spine, but only increased curve in the upper back because of slouching.
The following complications may happen:
- Severe or disabling back pain
- Poor body image
- Lack of appetite
Kyphosis treatment will differ depending on the age of the patient, the symptoms and the cause of the condition.
The doctor may recommend pain relievers if the pain is severe and osteoporosis drugs for the older people suffering from kyphosis.
In some cases, the kyphosis gets better with:
- Stretching exercises
- Regular physical activity
- Wearing a brace
- Maintaining healthy body weight
- Proper diet with calcium and vitamin D
If the case is severe the doctor may recommend surgery. When the curve pinches the spinal cord or nerve roots, a surgery is needed to reduce the level of rounding. The most common procedure is spinal fusion. The surgery consist of connecting two or more affected vertebrae permanently with insertion of bone pieces between the vertebrae, and after that fastening of the vertebrae with metal rods and screws until the spine is healed in the proper position.