Types and Symptoms of Kyphosis | Orthopaedics

What is kyphosis?

Kyphosis is a spinal condition in which the upper outer curve of the spine (usually the thoracic spine) is very rounded. This curve causes a hunched or slanted look, commonly known as a hunchback or round back.

Age-related kyphosis is often caused by compression or fracture due to weakness in the vertebrae. Other types of roundback appear in babies or adolescents due to the deformity of the spine or dislocation of the vertebrae over time.

People with roundback are concerned about their appearance, but in most cases, they are not serious enough to cause problems or require medical treatment or surgery. In more severe cases, people may have pain or trouble breathing. This occurs most often in teens, but it can develop at any time.

Alternate name

  • Roundback
  • Hunchback

Types of kyphosis

There are three types of kyphosis: postural, spike, and congenital.

Postural kyphosis: This is caused by poor posture. This usually occurs during adolescence and is more common in girls than boys. In most cases, this type can be corrected with physical therapy and exercise and does not require medical treatment.

Kyphosis, a hump-shaped curve in the upper right quadrant.

Schneiderman’s kyphosis: This begins in adolescence and is caused by a “breakdown” of the vertebrae, contributing to the development of scoliosis. X-rays are needed to diagnose this type, but doctors are not sure why it occurs.

Schumann’s kyphosis: It can be treated longer with physical therapy and mild pain relievers.

If the patient is still growing and the curve of the spine measures 45 degrees, a weed is recommended.

Kyphotic spinal curves measuring greater than 75 degrees require surgery to treat the deformity and stabilize the spine.

Congenital kyphosis: This is due to abnormal development of the vertebrae before birth and vertebral fusion. Surgery is generally recommended when roundback affects the baby and can help treat it before the disorder worsens.

This can be caused by other disorders, including:

  • Vertebral compression fracture (s)
  • Degenerative spinal arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondyloarthritis
  • Spinal cord infection
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Spinal tumor

Symptoms of kyphosis

Most people with kyphosis do not have symptoms other than rounded shoulders or a lump in the upper back. The larger the curve, the more likely a person is to have other symptoms. These include:

  • Pain or stiffness in the back and/or shoulder blades
  • Numb, weak, or tingly legs
  • Severe fatigue
  • Poor posture
  • Difficulty breathing or other breathing difficulties

Causes of kyphosis

Kyphosis can affect people of any age. Poor posture is often the cause because it rarely occurs in newborns. Kyphosis from poor posture is called postural roundback.

Other possible causes of kyphosis are:

  • Aging, especially if you have poor posture
  • Muscle weakness in the upper back
  • Schweizerman’s disease, which occurs in children and has no unknown cause
  • Arthritis or other osteoporosis diseases
  • Osteoporosis or loss of bone strength due to age
  • Spinal injury
  • Slipped discs
  • Scoliosis or curvature of the spine

The following conditions less commonly lead to kyphosis:

  • Spine infection
  • Birth defects such as spina bifida
  • Tumors
  • Connective tissue diseases
  • Polio
  • Paget’s disease
  • Muscular weakness

Does kyphosis need treatment?

A spine specialist can determine if your kyphosis needs treatment. The evaluation includes your medical and family history, a thorough physical and neurological exam, and imaging tests. The orthopedic spinal surgeon or neurosurgeon may order foot X-rays, computed tomography, and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to fully diagnose roundback. If previous roundback imaging studies are available, the spine specialist will compare the old images with the newer ones.

Imaging studies are used to measure the size or angle of the roundback. Previous imaging studies can provide information on curve size progression and “Is the curve larger?” You can answer the question.

Also, your body’s balance, ability to stand upright, and symptoms are potential indicators that recommend surgical or non-surgical treatment. Other tests may include blood function tests, pulmonary function tests (a measurement of lung and lung capacity), and bone mineral density tests.

Treatment for kyphosis

Treatment for kyphosis depends on its severity and the underlying cause. Here are some common causes and their treatments:

Schweizerman disease. The child may receive physical therapy, braces, or corrective surgery.

Tumors are usually removed only if there is concern about spinal cord compression. If so, your surgeon may try to remove the tumor, but it can often destabilize the bone. In such cases, spinal fusion is often necessary.

Osteoporosis. Treatment of osteoporosis is essential to prevent roundback from increasing. Medications make it great.

Poor posture. Posture exercises can help. You do not need aggressive treatments.

The following treatments can help relieve symptoms of kyphosis:

  • Medications can reduce pain if necessary
  • Physical therapy can help strengthen your core and back muscles
  • Yoga increases body awareness and increases strength, flexibility, and range of motion
  • Excessive weight loss reduces the additional load on the spine
  • Wearing braces can help, especially in children and teens
  • In severe cases, surgery may be necessary


In addition to back pain, kyphosis can cause:

Respiratory problems. Severe roundback puts pressure on the lungs.

Limited physical functions. The muscles behind the roundback are weak and have difficulty performing tasks such as walking and getting up from chairs. The curvature of the spine also makes it difficult to look up or drive and causes pain when lying down.

Digestive problems. A severe roundback can narrow the digestive system and cause problems like acid reflux and trouble swallowing.

Body image problems. People with roundback, especially teenagers, can develop poor body image from having a rounded back or from using a brush to correct the condition. For the elderly, body image can lead to social isolation.

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