Kyphosis is the abnormal curvature of the upper back that makes it appear hunched or bowed. There are several health issues that can cause this condition.

  • Postural kyphosis occurs in patients of all ages due to slouching.

  • Structural kyphosis is associated with spina bifida, a spinal birth defect.

  • Scheuermann’s disease patients develop the condition due to uneven spinal growth.

  • Degenerative diseases like osteoporosis and arthritis can also cause kyphosis.

Over time, spinal deformities appear as the bones, joints and cartilage deteriorate. Other risk factors include spinal damage, muscular dystrophy, polio, tissue disorders and endocrine diseases.

What are the Symptoms of Kyphosis?

Patients with mild kyphosis possess excess spinal curvature, stiffness, muscle fatigue and back pain.

The symptoms do not worsen over time and can improve with proper treatment. Severe kyphosis requires medical attention as the symptoms may worsen. They may include:

  • Loss of sensation: Pressure on the nerves can cause numbness in the back and extremities.

  • Intense pain: The spine’s irregular shape makes it painful to sit, stand or recline.

  • Bladder and bowel control: Nerve and muscle damage interfere with the ability to control basic bodily functions.

  • Overall weakness: Normal physical activities can cause extreme weakness and fatigue.

  • Shortness of breath: It’s more difficult to breathe.

  • Chest pain: Reduced chest space can create extreme discomfort.

How is Kyphosis Diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose the condition by evaluating your medical history and performing the following examinations:

  • Physical exam: The doctor will check he spine for abnormal curvature and the muscles for unusual tenderness.
  • Adam's Forward Bending Test: A round curve indicates postural kyphosis; an angular curve means the condition is severe.
  • Range of motion: This exam measures your comfort level as you twist and bend backward, sideways and forward.
  • Nervous system examination: The doctor will determine whether numbness, tingling, pain or weakness are sensed during nerve, brain and spinal cord tests.
  • Imaging tests: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and X-rays can detect spinal curvature and other abnormalities.
  • The Cobb Angle: This test determines the severity of the condition by measuring spinal curvature in X-rays or MRIs.

How Is Kyphosis Treated?

Mild kyphosis can improve with concerted efforts in replacing bad posture and physical therapy. Severe kyphosis, on the other hand, can cause other medical issues and requires more targeted treatments such as:

  • Medications: Muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs to ease discomfort.
  • Spinal surgery: These can restore normal spinal curvature.
  • Physical therapy: Gentle exercises can improve spinal flexibility, strength, posture and mobility.
  • Spinal traction: Reduces muscle tightness and pressure on the nerves by stretching your back.
  • Alternative treatments: Yoga, acupuncture, and other unconventional methods may help, in addition to standard treatments.

If you are concerned that you have kyphosis, consult with a trained medical professional. The doctor can evaluate your condition and prescribe the proper treatment for relief.

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