Kyphosis refers to an exaggerated curvature on your posterior upper back (the thoracic spine) where the shoulders are rounded forward. It’s also called hunchback or round back.
The kyphosis person has a visible hump on their upper back, because of the increased posterior thoracic curve from the neutral that can lead to excess pressure on the spine, and cause pain.
What Causes Kyphosis?
Poor posture in childhood, such as slouching, leaning back in chairs, and carrying heavy schoolbags, can cause the ligaments and muscles that support the vertebrae to stretch. This can pull the thoracic vertebrae out of their normal position, resulting in kyphosis.
- aging, especially if you have poor posture
- muscle weakness in the upper back
- Scheuermann’s disease, which occurs in children and has no known cause
- arthritis or other bone degeneration diseases
- osteoporosis, or the loss of bone strength due to age
- injury to the spine
- slipped discs
- scoliosis, or spinal curvature
- Broken or crushed vertebrae can result in curvature of the spine
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Kyphosis?
The main signs of kyphosis are:
- A rounded, hunched back. Sometimes the rounding is hard to see. Other times it’s more noticeable. Some teens can’t straighten their curves by standing up and some can.
- Back pain. Some teens with kyphosis have back pain.
What are the types of kyphosis posture?
The causes of kyphosis depend on the type:
- Congenital kyphosis: Doctors don’t know exactly why some kids are born with this.
- Scheuermann’s kyphosis: Doctors don’t know the exact cause, but it runs in families.
- Postural kyphosis: This happens to many people, especially those who look down a lot of time, such as at schoolwork or on a phone.
1. Congenital Kyphosis
Congenital kyphosis means a spinal curvature condition you have with birth. It needs surgery at a young age.
- Can get worse as a child grows.
- Typically needs surgery at a young age to stop the curve from getting worse.
- It may be present along with other birth defects that affect the heart and kidneys.
2. Scheuermann’s kyphosis
This type is named after the radiologist who first identified the condition. It happens when the vertebrae have a different shape. Instead of being rectangular, the vertebrae have a wedge shape. The wedge-shaped bones curve forward, making the spine look rounded. This condition also comes from birth and can be treat through surgery.
- Appears more often in teens and affects boys more than girls.
- Can be more severe than postural kyphosis, especially in people below average weight.
- Causes a rigid, not flexible, curve — changing position won’t change the curve.
- Can be painful, especially during activity or when standing or sitting for a long me.
3. Postural Kyphosis
The most common type of kyphosis, postural kyphosis usually happens during the teenage years. Slouching or poor posture stretches the ligaments and muscles holding the vertebrae (spinal bones) in place. That stretching pulls the vertebrae out of their normal position, causing a rounded shape in the spine.
- Has a flexible curve — changing position changes the curvature.
- Happens to teenagers and affects girls more than boys.
- Doesn’t usually cause pain or problems.
Will you need Kyphosis surgery?
If kyphosis causes severe pain or other symptoms that interfere with your life, surgery can help. A surgical procedure can reduce the curvature to relieve symptoms. Healthcare providers recommend spine surgery for people with:
- Congenital kyphosis.
- Scheuermann’s kyphosis with a curve of more than 75 degrees.
- Severe back pain, even after trying nonsurgical treatment.
What happen in Kyphosis surgery?
The most common kyphosis surgery is spinal fusion surgery. During this procedure, your surgeon:
- Lines up the vertebrae in a straighter position.
- Bonds them together by using small pieces of bone to fill the spaces between the vertebrae.
As the vertebrae heal, they fuse or join together. This procedure reduces the severity of the curve to support your body better. It prevents the curve from getting worse.
How to Fix Postural Kyphosis?
The simple and most effective method to correct postural kyphosis is to strengthen your weak muscles like upper-back extensors, scapular stabilizers, and neck flexors or to stretch your tight muscles such as the chest/shoulder, latissimus dorsi, and neck extensors.
Exercise or Stretches for Kyphosis posture
The below are the three different exercises that stretches your thoracic back and lower back regins which helps you to reverse the kyphosis posture to neutral.
Lie on your belly. Bend your elbows and place your hands on the floor next to the ribs. Your feet and legs are at hip-width. Point your toes, so the tops of your feet are on the floor. On an inhale, begin to peel your chest away from the floor, lifting into spinal extension.
Lie on the floor in a prone (facedown) position, with your legs straight and your arms extended in front of you. Keeping your head in a neutral position (avoid looking up), slowly lift your arms and legs around 6 inches (15.3 cm) off the floor, or until you feel your lower back muscles contracting. Engage your glutes, your core, and the muscles between your shoulder blades simultaneously. Aim to lift your belly button slightly off the floor to contract your abs. A good way to picture this is to imagine you’re Superman flying in the air. Hold this position for 2–3 seconds. Be sure you’re breathing the entire time. Lower your arms, legs, and belly back to the floor. Repeat this exercise for 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.
Thoracic spine foam rolling
- Place the roller horizontally across your upper back, right below your shoulder blades.
- Bend your knees and press your feet firmly into the floor.
- Interlace your fingers at the base of your skull and lean back.
- Raise your hips slightly to move the roller up toward your shoulders.
- Focus on sensitive areas for at least 20 seconds.
- Work your way up to your shoulders. Then work your way down to your mid-back again.
- Repeat 4 to 5 times.
Normal Posture vs Kyphosis
|Normal Posture||Kyphosis Posture|
|Neutral spine: a very nice curve at lower and upper back.||Increase thoracic spine outward from the neutral.|
|No muscle tightness||Muscles tightness in the areas like anterior chest/shoulders, lats, neck extensors.|
|No pain||Pain cause on your neck mostly.|
Kyphosis vs Lordosis
|1. increased inward lower back curve from neutral||1. increase upper spine curves too far outward|
|2. Also known as sway-back||2. also known as hunch-back|
|3. Muscle Tightness: Hip flexors, Lumbar extensors.||3. Muscle tightness: Chest, Lats, Neck extensors|
Complications if you have kyphosis
In addition to causing back pain, kyphosis may cause:
- Breathing problems. Severe kyphosis can put pressure on the lungs.
- Limited physical functions. Kyphosis is associated with weakened back muscles and difficulty doing tasks such as walking and getting out of chairs. The spinal curvature can also make it difficult to gaze upward or drive and can cause pain when you lie down.
- Digestive problems. Severe kyphosis can compress the digestive tract, causing problems such as acid reflux and difficulty with swallowing.
- Body image problems. People with kyphosis, especially adolescents, may develop a poor body image from having a rounded back or from wearing a brace to correct the condition. For older people, poor body image can lead to social isolation.
The following treatments may help relieve the symptoms of kyphosis:
- Medication can relieve pain, if necessary.
- Physical therapy can help build strength in the core and back muscles.
- Yoga may increase body awareness and build strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
- Losing excess weight can relieve extra burden on the spine.
- Wearing braces may help, especially in children and teens.
- Surgery may be needed in severe cases.
Outlook if you have kyphosis
For most people, kyphosis doesn’t cause serious health problems. This is dependent on the cause of the kyphosis. For example, if poor posture is causing kyphosis, you may experience pain and breathing difficulties.
You can treat kyphosis early by:
- strengthening the muscles of the back
- seeing a physical therapist
Your goal will be to improve your posture long term to decrease pain and other symptoms.