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What Is Kyphosis?


Kyphosis, also known as roundback or hunchback in severe cases, can develop at any age, but it’s most commonly in aging women and teenage boys. Kyphosis is a forward-rounding of your mid-to-upper back. Most cases of kyphosis are mild, but some of the more severe cases can cause symptoms that include:

  • Back pain
  • A spine deformity
  • Difficulty breathing

During the development of the condition, the bones of your spine become weak, causing compression or cracking. Newborns may develop kyphosis as a birth defect. Annual physicals from birth allow your doctor to catch the condition early, which makes treatment easier, as the condition often worsens over time, even if pain isn’t present.

If you’re experiencing roundback or hunchback, get diagnosed for kyphosis by an expert spine specialist like those at Premier Brain & Spine, New Jersey’s top spine care center. They have offices in Bayonne, Edison, Freehold, Hackensack, Paterson, Rutherford, Union, West Orange, and West Caldwell, along with one location in NY in Goshen. You need an accurate diagnosis before you can get treated.

What Are the Types of Kyphosis?

There are four different types of kyphosis, based on when it strikes and who gets it. The four types include:

  1. Congenital kyphosis, which affects newborns
  2. Postural kyphosis, which is caused by poor posture, usually affecting teens
  3. Scheuermann’s kyphosis, a severe form of the condition, affecting male teens
  4. Hyperkyphosis, often seen in hunchbacked elderly people, mostly women

Congenital kyphosis is diagnosed in vitro and occurs when vertebrae fuse together in the womb. Corrective spine surgery is required after birth to stop the progression. Kyphosis can affect other organs, so corrective surgeries for infants are not always possible.

Postural kyphosis in adolescents is from poor posture or slouching. Corrective behaviors are often enough to prevent future issues. Scheuermann’s kyphosis can be very painful because it is angular and rigid. The condition is irreparable, but stops progressing after the last growth spurt. Hyperkyphosis requires targeted treatment, including surgery.

What Are the Symptoms of Kyphosis?

Other than mild pain, early kyphosis may not be noticeable. But other symptoms in your body may indicate the condition. These include:

  • Fatigue
  • Bladder issues
  • Tight hamstrings
  • Shoulders that round forward
  • Muscle weakness in your back
  • Digestive complications, such as acid reflux
  • Pain when standing from a seated position or while walking
  • Tingling, loss of sensation or numbness in your legs

Symptoms of kyphosis can also include social behaviors, which are more difficult to diagnose. Be aware of such as signs of self-isolation for an older person, body image issues in teens and avoidance of group or public activities that require physical movement.

What Are the Possible Treatments for Kyphosis?


In determining treatment options, a top spine surgeon considers many factors, including:

  • Age
  • Number of years left to finish growing if appropriate
  • Kyphosis type
  • The severity of the spinal curvature

If you have postural kyphosis, your doctor may recommend non-surgical treatments, such as specific exercises, physical therapy to strengthen back and abdominal muscles or anti-inflammatory medications. For children suffering from kyphosis, the spine expert may recommend a back brace that you adjust over time to straighten the roundback until the child is fully grown.

The same non-surgical treatments may be effective for you if you have Scheuermann’s kyphosis, but only if your spinal curve is less than 70 degrees. Otherwise, surgery, such as a kyphoplasty procedure, may be the best solution. If the abnormal curve is in the lower back and it’s greater than 25 degrees, a spinal fusion surgery may be necessary. Congenital kyphosis almost always requires surgery, when it’s possible.

How Is Kyphosis Diagnosed?

Your spine naturally has curvature, but a curve of more than 45 degrees is a sign of abnormal curvature. In addition to the more obvious symptoms, a top spine expert at Premier Brain & Spine can use diagnostic tests to identify the condition, such as:

  • A physical exam
  • X-rays
  • An MRI
  • Testing your bone density
  • Scoliosis
  • Nerve testing when there’s muscle weakness or numbness
  • Referral to a pulmonary specialist, if there are breathing problems

Your spine specialist typically diagnoses kyphosis in teens while examining the physical presence of a hump or curve. The doctor collects medical history information, including current overall health. If symptoms of kyphosis are detected, the best New Jersey orthopedics physician:

  • Presses on the child’s spine to find tender areas
  • Asks your child to put both feet together with straight knees and then bend forward, allowing their arms to dangle
  • Takes x-rays from various angles
  • Requires an MRI in younger children

What Is Spinal Fusion?

A spinal fusion is a type of spinal reconstructive surgery that lessens the spinal curve, preventing it from progressing further, alleviating back pain after a full recovery and sustaining improvement over time. The purpose of a spinal fusion is to weld affected vertebrae together, so the bone behaves as if it were a single vertebra.

During a spinal fusion, metal screws and rods position the vertebrae into at least a 50 percent improvement in the curve. Then bone grafts are put in the area between the vertebrae to seal the fusion and heal together as a single bone. The fewer vertebrae needing alignment, the more mobility the surgery provides after a full recovery. If there are several places in the spine needing fusion, the procedure limits some physical movements, such as:

  • Bending
  • Twisting
  • Rotating
  • Straightening

Premier Brain & Spine, the best NJ spine center, has ten locations in northern New Jersey and New York. Its experienced, board certified surgeons have successfully treated thousands of patients with kyphosis. Their aim is to treat the causes of your spinal curvature and prevent further spinal complications. Schedule a consultation today.

Updated on Jul 27, 2022 by Dr. David Wells-Roth (Neurosurgeon) of Premier Brain & Spine

Premier Brain & Spine
10 Parsonage Rd, Suite 208A
Edison, NJ 08837
(732) 258-0190