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Kyphosis and lordosis are normal curves. Slight
curvature of the spine is normal and healthy, there are some cases
where it is over-pronounced and can cause both cosmetic deformity and
health risks. When the spine curves inward too much in the low back,
it is called lordosis. When the spine in the shoulder blade or mid-spine
area has too much forward curve, or too much of a hump, it is called
kyphosis. Kyphosis most often occurs in the thoracic area of the spine.
Some people are born with kyphosis when there is a naturally occuring abnormality in the spine. Kyphosis can also be an acquired condition. Teenagers in particular may develop kyphosis due to bad posture, especially girls between the ages of 12 and 15. Adolescent kyphosis is called Scheuermann's disease.
Compression fractures are often linked to the development
of many cases of adult kyphosis, because they cause vertebrae to become
wedged, reducing the amount of space between each vertebra. These fractures
can occur as the result of degenerating discs, arthritis, osteoporosis
and spondylolisthesis. Individuals with osteoporosis may develop kyphosis
due to a weakening and compression in the vertebrae. Kyphosis in these
individuals is treated with aggressive anti-osteoporosis action to
prevent further bone weakening.
The symptoms of kyphosis are similar to those of scoliosis. These include
uneven shoulders, chest, hips, shoulder blades, waist, or a tendency
to lean to one side. In other cases, there are no visible symptoms.
To diagnose a person with scoliosis, have them touch their toes.
If either one or both shoulder blades are prominent, the waist is
shifted or ribs are uneven, kyphosis may be present. Kyphosis is
also called “hunchback” because of the hunched over appearance
often seen in patients. Other symptoms include fatigue and difficulty
Outlined below are some of the diagnostic tools that your physician may use to gain insight into your condition and determine the best treatment plan for your condition.
When treating kyphosis, the cause of the disease must first be considered.
Some cases require surgery early on, while other times, bracing and
physical therapy may be the best course of action. Although bracing
can help reduce pain symptoms, it is less successful at fixing the
underlying problem of a curved spine, especially in adults. Strengthening
and stretching programs can be successful at reducing symptoms. Swimming
and other low-impact forms of exercise are beneficial. In cases which
require surgical intervention, the goal is to reduce the curvature
and relieve pain and discomfort over a long period of time.
When is surgery necessary to treat kyphosis?
Surgery is always treated as a last resort, while more conservative methods are tried first. In general, surgery is considered when the curve exceeds 75 degrees. Other cases in which surgery may be recommended are for those suffering from chronic pain and/or a rapidly progressive curve.
How can I prevent kyphosis?
Strengthening the back muscles can help prevent poor posture, which can lead to kyphosis. Osteoporosis, which can also cause kyphosis, can be prevented by getting enough calcium and vitamin D, exercising and strength training regularly.
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