Kyphosis is a forward rounding of your upper back. While kyphosis can occur at any age, it’s most common in older women where the deformity is known as a dowager’s hump or hunchback.
The individual bones that make up a healthy spine look like squares stacked in a column. Kyphosis occurs when the bones in the upper back become more wedge-shaped. This deformity can be caused by a variety of problems, including:
- Osteoporosis. This bone-thinning disorder can result in crushed vertebrae.
- Disk degeneration. Soft circular disks act as cushions between spinal vertebrae. With age, these disks dry out and shrink, which often worsens kyphosis.
- Cancer and cancer treatments. Cancer in the spine can weaken vertebrae and make them more prone to compression fractures
- Scheuermann’s disease. The kyphosis associated with Scheuermann’s disease, a hereditary disorder, typically begins during the growth spurt that occurs before puberty.
- Birth defects. In rare cases, a baby’s spinal column doesn’t develop properly in the womb, which can result in kyphosis.
In addition to an abnormally curved spine, kyphosis can also cause back pain and stiffness in some people.
Kyphosis may cause the following complications:
- Body image problems. Having a rounded back or from wearing a brace to correct the condition.
- Back pain. In some cases, the misalignment of the spine can lead to pain, which can become severe and disabling.
- Breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the curve may cause the rib cage to press against your lungs, inhibiting your ability to breathe.
Kyphosis treatment depends on the cause of the condition and the signs and symptoms that are present.
Your doctor may suggest:
- Pain relievers.
- Osteoporosis drugs. In many people, kyphosis is the first clue that they have osteoporosis. Bone-strengthening drugs may help prevent additional spinal fractures that would cause your kyphosis to worsen.
- Exercises. Stretching exercises can improve spinal flexibility.
Adolescence is a time when young people are struggling with physical and emotional changes. Having a noticeable spinal deformity or wearing a brace can make this challenging time even more difficult. Make sure your child has caring people to turn to, including supportive family and friends, or even a professional counselor, if necessary.