Kyphosis is a spinal condition characterized by excessive curvature of the spine that causes slouching and rounding of the back. It can affect anyone at any age, but is generally most common in women. Age-related kyphosis in older women whose bones have already been weakened by osteoporosis can lead to cracking and compression of the spinal bones.
What Causes Forward Curvature of the Spine?
Kyphosis results from a deformity of the vertebrae (small bones) of the upper spine. Some of the most common causes of kyphosis include:
Cancer – Cancer patients can be susceptible to compression fractures in the spine as a result of tumors as well as chemotherapy treatments that can weaken the vertebrae.
Osteoporosis – Osteoporosis can lead to the thinning and loss of bone density, weakening the bones and making them more susceptible to breakage and compression fractures. Osteoporosis is most common in older adults and tends to afflict women at a much higher rate than men.
Birth Defects – Newborns whose spinal column has not developed properly can be at risk for developing kyphosis. Children with secondary or underlying medical conditions like Marfan Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder which can weaken the skeletal system, or Prader Willi disease are also at higher risk for kyphosis.
Disc degeneration – As people age, the discs that serve as a cushion of support between the vertebrae can begin to dry out and shrink, leading to pain and a risk of kyphosis.
What Are The Symptoms of Exaggerated Forward Rounding?
Mild forms of kyphosis can be asymptomatic, with patients experiencing little to no pain or visible symptoms. In certain cases, patients can experience severe pain and disfiguration (“hunchback”).
When to See a Doctor – Diagnosis and Treatment
Pain or stiffness and noticeable curvature of the back should be brought to a doctor’s attention. An orthopedic spine surgeon will perform a physical exam and observe the curvature of the spine to determine whether the patient is suffering from kyphosis. Diagnostic tests may include x-ray, CAT scan, and MRI. In cases where the patient is also experiencing numbness and muscle weakness, nerve and neurological tests may be ordered as well. To learn more about kyphosis and treatment options, please visit the kyphosis page on Wikipedia.
Forward Rounding of Spine Treatment Options
Treatment for kyphosis will depend on various factors, such as age, the root cause of the curvature, and the severity of the condition in each patient. In cases where the patient is experiencing pain or the kyphosis is caused by a secondary condition like osteoporosis, pain relievers and bone strengthening medication may be prescribed. Conservative treatments like exercise, strength-training, and conditioning can help to alleviate symptoms. Stretching and abdominal exercises can help to support the spine and alleviate pain.
Children with kyphosis may be prescribed a supportive brace for support through the growth process. Additionally, shedding excess and maintaining a healthy weight can help alleviate pressure and strain on the back. A balanced diet with enough calcium and vitamin D is also essential to maintaining bone health.
To learn more about kyphosis treatment options, please contact an orthopedic spinal surgeon today.
Next, learn about degenerative disc disease.