Kyphosis

Kyphosis can do more than just impact your health. It can impact your self-esteem, making it harder to be outgoing. With Hoag Spine Institute in your corner, you've got the team you need to find your strength and recover more fully from issues that can affect your posture. The Hoag Spine Institute team takes a multi-disciplinary, patient-centered approach to spinal issues, bringing together the talents of renowned doctors, specialists and experts with the latest technology and treatments. The goal: to help you come back strong.

Need the Area’s Most Advanced Kyphosis Treatment? Orange County Trusts Hoag for Next-Generation Spinal Care.

At Hoag Spine Institute, our world-class team of spinal experts is united in one goal: helping Orange County residents with spine problems live happier, healthier lives, getting them back to doing what they love with less pain.

What defines spinal care at Hoag? The latest and most advanced diagnostic imaging technology. Minimally-invasive procedures performed by nationally-ranked physicians focused on your comfort and care. State-of-the-art facilities and amenities, designed to take the anxiety out of getting a handle on the factors causing your back pain or nerve dysfunction. That’s the high standard of spine care Orange County deserves, and what you’ll find every day at Hoag. To schedule an appointment or get a second opinion, contact Hoag today at 949-764-1411 or through our online form.

Read on for what you need to know about kyphosis, including key definitions, types and the procedures Hoag Spine Institute offers to help you heal.

What is Kyphosis?

Kyphosis is a condition in which the upper back develops an exaggerated forward curve. Those with the condition often look stooped or “hunched over,” with rounded shoulders, even when they’re standing up as straight as they can. In the past, kyphosis was sometimes called “roundback” or “hunchback.”

Many types of kyphosis go beyond poor posture, and create physical issues with the spine that make it hard, painful or impossible to fully stand up straight. While mild kyphosis may be barely noticeable, in those with severe kyphosis, the effect on the appearance can be substantial, including a visible hump.

In addition to pain, stiffness and inflexibility in the upper back, kyphosis can cause self-esteem issues due to the impact on a person’s posture and the way they look.

In severe cases, involving what’s called hyperkyphosis, the hunched posture and excessive outward curve of the spine can begin to compress the abdomen, causing issues like swallowing difficulties and acid reflux.

What are the Different Types of Kyphosis?

There are several different types of kyphosis. Which type of kyphosis a person has depends on several factors, including what caused it, the symptoms a patient experiences, which part of the spine is involved and more.

The most common types of kyphosis include:

  • Postural kyphosis: Postural kyphosis is the most common type of the condition, and is usually caused by slouching and poor posture. Having bad posture for a long time disrupts and weakens the muscles and ligaments that maintain the normal curvature of the spine and which are responsible for helping you stand up straight. Over time, that can cause your vertebra and supporting tissues to change position inside the body, resulting in the “hunched” or “stooped” appearance that’s common among those with kyphosis.
  • Cervical kyphosis: Sometimes called “military neck,” cervical kyphosis is a type of the condition that specifically impacts the cervical spine, the upper portion of the spine that includes the first seven vertebrae below the skull. When those with cervical kyphosis are seen from the side, they may appear to be looking down, as the cervical spine has an abnormal curve toward the front of the body. Cervical kyphosis can be either congenital (present at birth) or acquired, meaning it was caused by an issue like an injury, infection or a medical condition like spina bifida.
  • Congenital kyphosis: Congenital kyphosis is a type of kyphosis that’s present at birth because the spine didn’t develop normally while a person was in the womb. It’s often a progressive disease, meaning the symptoms of congenital kyphosis get worse over time if a person with the condition doesn’t seek treatment. Surgery in childhood is often required to correct the spinal deformity that causes congenital kyphosis, though people with the issue may still have back pain, stiffness and inflexibility well into adulthood.
  • Scheuermann’s kyphosis: Also known as Scheuermann’s disease, Scheuermann’s kyphosis is a type of kyphosis caused by the vertebrae of the upper back growing unevenly during puberty and becoming wedge-shaped. In those with the condition, the front of each affected vertebrae in the upper back develops more slowly than the back portion, eventually giving the vertebrae a characteristic wedge shape while causing an excessively head-forward appearance. Those with the condition may experience back pain and stiffness, especially after activity. It’s not known what causes Scheuermann’s disease, but it’s thought to have a genetic component, as the condition sometimes runs in families.
  • Age-related hyperkyphosis: Age-related hyperkyphosis, also called “dowager’s hump” or gibbus deformity, is a progressive form of kyphosis in which spinal curvature and a stooped appearance gets steadily worse as a person grows older. The condition is most often diagnosed in older women, though older men can experience age-related hyperkyphosis as well.

What Causes Kyphosis?

Depending on the type you have, kyphosis can be caused by a range of issues and factors, including some that are outside a person’s control. Factors that can cause or contribute to kyphosis include:

Incorrect Posture

Not maintaining correct posture while standing, sitting or looking at a computer screen can weaken the muscles, tendons and other tissues that support the upper back and help it maintain a proper curvature. Over time, the result can be postural kyphosis.

Normal Aging

Some types of kyphosis, including age-related hyperkyphosis, are caused by changes in the muscles, tissues and spine related to growing older.

Structural and Congenital Issues
  • Scheuermann’s disease: Usually diagnosed during puberty, Scheuermann’s disease causes uneven growth of the vertebrae in the upper back, leading to curvature of the spine due to the vertebrae developing a wedge-shaped appearance.
  • Congenital kyphosis: This form of kyphosis is present at birth, caused by the improper formation of the spine in the womb.
  • Spondylolisthesis: Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one vertebra can slip over one another, causing spinal misalignment and pain. In more advanced cases, the condition can result in kyphosis.
Genetics

Because certain types of kyphosis are known to run in families, it’s believed there may be a genetic component to kyphosis.

Certain Medical Conditions

In some cases, certain types of medical conditions can cause the weakening of the spine and supporting tissues, which can lead to kyphosis. Conditions that can cause or contribute to kyphosis include:

  • Osteoporosis: Weak bones due to osteoporosis can fracture or compress, leading to a hunched posture.
  • Osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition that’s also called “brittle bone disease”.
  • Degenerative disc disease: Wear and tear of spinal discs can affect their cushioning ability, impacting posture and potentially contributing to kyphosis.
  • Arthritis: Inflammation due to arthritis can cause the spine to stiffen and limit normal movement, potentially leading to kyphosis.
  • Muscular dystrophy, which is a condition that causes weakness and deterioration of the muscles. That can include weakening of the muscles that help maintain posture and support the spine, which can contribute to kyphosis.
  • Certain neurological conditions: Some types of neurological disorders can affect a person’s ability to control their muscles, including the muscles responsible for good posture. Over time, that can potentially lead to kyphosis.
Trauma and Injuries
  • Fractures: Vertebral fractures, especially compression fractures, can cause issues that lead or contribute to kyphosis.
  • Spinal injuries: Injuries to the spine from accidents, falls or sports can damage the spinal column and its supporting tissues, potentially leading to changes in spinal alignment and kyphosis.

What are the Symptoms of Kyphosis?

While the most visible and obvious symptom of kyphosis is having a rounded upper back and a hunched or stooped appearance, there are also a number of other symptoms of the condition. They may include:

Common Symptoms of Kyphosis:
  • Forward head posture: The head appears to jut forward or tilt downward, and is not in line with the shoulders when seen in profile.
  • Tight hamstrings: The hamstrings are a group of muscles located at the back of your thigh that are important in maintaining good posture. In those with kyphosis, tight hamstrings can occur as the body compensates for the stooped posture.
  • Back pain: While not everyone with kyphosis experiences back pain, some do.
  • Reduced overall spine flexibility and stiffness.
  • Feeling “off balanced”: The “leaned forward” posture of those with kyphosis may throw off their sense of balance, which can lead to issues like instability when standing or falls.
  • Self-Esteem Issues: Because of the hunched over appearance characteristic of kyphosis, some people with the condition may feel self-conscious due to how they look.
Less Common Kyphosis Symptoms:
  • Difficulty breathing: In severe cases, the curvature of the spine can become so pronounced that it can begin to compress the lungs, causing difficulty taking a full, deep breath.
  • Fatigue: Maintaining a stooped posture while standing, walking or moving can put added strain on other muscles in your body. That can lead to using more energy, which can result in feeling tired.
  • Numbness, tingling or weakness in the extremities: If spinal nerves are compressed due to changes in the spine caused by kyphosis, one result can be nerve-related issues like numbness and tingling.
  • Digestive issues: In rare cases, the hunched posture caused by severe kyphosis can begin to compress internal organs like the stomach, esophagus and intestines, potentially leading to digestive problems like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

How is Kyphosis Diagnosed?

If you visit a physician with symptoms that suggest you might have kyphosis, the doctor will likely begin by doing a thorough physical exam, including questions about your family and personal history of kyphosis and other issues involving the spine, the symptoms you’re experiencing and more.

While the rounded-back appearance of kyphosis can often be diagnosed immediately, your doctor may do other tests to determine the extent of the curvature and other factors. That may include having you bend at the waist to judge your range of motion and tests of your muscle strength and reflexes.

Depending on the outcome of the initial exam, your doctor may order other tests to help diagnose the condition. These may include:

  • X-rays
  • CT scans
  • MRI scans
  • Bone density tests

How is Kyphosis Treated?

If you’re diagnosed with kyphosis, you may be referred to a specialist who specializes in care for the spine. As part of your care, your doctor will probably monitor the curvature of your spine over time, watching closely for any signs the disease is getting worse.

Depending on the severity of your case and how much it progresses, the treatment plan for kyphosis may include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Pain management with prescription or over-the-counter medications
  • Regular exercise, including exercises designed to specifically strengthen the upper back and spine
  • Lifestyle changes to help you build muscle mass and lose weight
  • Being fitted for a back brace to improve your posture
  • Treatments for osteoporosis, including upping calcium intake
  • Surgery, potentially including spinal fusion or kyphoplasty, a minimally-invasive surgery used to treat compression fractures of the spine.

What are the Risk Factors for Kyphosis?

While the causes of congenital or childhood forms of kyphosis aren’t well understood, there are several factors that can potentially put you at greater risk for or lead to kyphosis as an adult. These risk factors include:

  • Being older
  • Having bad posture
  • Having a family history of kyphosis
  • Being obese
  • Having osteoporosis or low bone density
  • Having certain medical disorders like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy
  • Traumatic injury to the spine
  • Having vertebrae that develop abnormally during puberty (as in Scheuermann’s kyphosis)

Need the Area’s Most Advanced Kyphosis Treatment? Orange County Trusts Hoag.

Kyphosis can hurt more than just your posture. Because of the way the condition can make a person look permanently stooped over, it can hurt your self-esteem too. In severe cases, kyphosis can even begin to impact digestion.

But at Hoag Spine Institute, our nationally-ranked team of spine care experts stands ready to help, welding cutting-edge diagnostic technology that can get to the bottom of why your spinal curvature is increasing and advanced therapies to get the condition under control. For spinal care in Orange County, there’s just no place like Hoag.

Do you need assessment and treatment for kyphosis in Orange County? Then you owe it to your health to seek out the area’s most advanced programs for the spine, and a team that is focused on patient care, individualized treatments and minimally-invasive procedures that can get you back on your feet with less pain and shorter recovery times.

So don’t wait. If you need care for kyphosis in Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Irvine, Anaheim or any other community across Orange County, come see the spinal experts. Contact us today at 949-764-1411 or through our online form for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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