What is Kyphosis?

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Kyphosis is a term that describes increased rounding of the spine when viewed from the side. When kyphosis is increased, some people refer to it as a “round back” or “hunchback”. A normal spine has a straight appearance when viewed from the front or back, and several gentle curves when viewed from the side. The chest area has a normal rounding called thoracic kyphosis, while in the lower spine there is an opposite curve called lumbar lordosis. The two opposite curves of the spine work together to provide balance and an upright posture. 

A normal thoracic spine consists of twelve vertebrae, each with two ribs, labeled T1-T12 (T for thoracic) from top to bottom. The natural, normal roundness of the thoracic spine can be measured by your doctor on an X-ray, and typically ranges from 10° to 45°. When the kyphosis of the thoracic spine increases past 45° it is called “hyperkyphosis”.  

Patients with kyphosis often have poor posture and complain of back pain that can interfere with daily activities.  Increased kyphosis can be classified as either structural or non-structural.

Scheuermann’s Kyphosis

Scheuermann’s kyphosis is a type of structural kyphosis that occurs in teenage years (ages 12 to 15 in boys or 10 to 14 in girls) as a result of abnormal growth along the spine. The front sections of the vertebrae grow slower than the back sections, producing wedge-shaped vertebrae and a progressive increase in kyphosis. Instead of normal, rectangular vertebrae with a smooth kyphosis, wedge-shaped vertebrae exaggerate the forward bend of the spine and cause increased kyphosis. This abnormal, increased kyphosis is best viewed from the side with the patient bending forward, attempting to touch their toes. A sharp, angular hump is clearly visible. Most cases of Scheuermann’s kyphosis that develop with growth remain mild and require only periodic examinations with X-rays to monitor the condition. 

Non-Operative Treatment 

Like Scoliosis, non-surgical treatment depends on age, severity, and skeletal maturity.  Also like scoliosis, patients are often told to “wait and see” or be recommended for bracing.  

In our Boise office, we offer specialized exercises to help with kyphosis known as the “Schroth Method.” (See our Scoliosis page for more information on the history, details, and research supporting this method.) These exercises incorporate elongating the spine, breathing techniques, and core and postural strengthening.  Patient’s who participate in a Schroth-based exercise program often report increased control of spine, improved posture, and typically decreased pain.  Call our office for more details to see if this treatment is right for you or your child.