Mark J. Downey, MD & Alex Cotter, MD
10 Old Montgomery Hwy #200. Homewood, AL 35209
Appointments & Referrals: (205) 271-6511
Kyphosis and lordosis are types of spinal deformities. While 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 occurring 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 breathing.
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.
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.
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.