Treating kyphosis 

Most cases of kyphosis do not require treatment.

Kyphosis caused by poor posture (postural kyphosis) can usually be corrected by improving your posture.

If a child has kyphosis as a result of abnormally shaped vertebrae (Scheuermann's kyphosis), it will usually improve when they are fully grown.

Mild kyphosis

If you have mild to moderate kyphosis, it may be possible to control your symptoms using painkillers and exercise. 

Painkillers and exercise

Over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol, can help relieve any back pain.

Regular exercise and a course of physiotherapy may also be recommended to help strengthen the muscles in your back.

Bracing

Teenagers with mild to moderate kyphosis may need to wear a back brace. The brace is worn while the bones are still growing and prevents the curve getting worse.

You may find that wearing a brace is restrictive at first. However, most people get used to them after a while. Modern braces are designed to be as convenient as possible, so you should still be able to take part in a wide range of physical activities.

You will need to wear the brace until you are fully grown, which is usually around 16 years of age for girls and 18 for boys.

Bracing is not usually recommended for adults who have stopped growing because it will not correct the position of the spine.

Surgery

Surgery can usually correct the appearance of the back and help relieve any painful symptoms. However, as surgery carries quite a high risk of complication, it is only recommended for more severe cases of kyphosis, and where it is felt that the potential benefits of surgery outweigh the risks.

Surgery for kyphosis would usually be recommended if:

  • the curve of your spine is very pronounced
  • the curve is causing persistent pain that cannot be controlled with medication
  • the curve is disrupting your body's other important functions, such as breathing and the nervous system
  • without surgery it is likely that the structure of your spine would deteriorate further 

Surgery is sometimes required for babies born with congenital kyphosis.

A technique called spinal fusion is usually used to treat kyphosis. It involves joining together the vertebrae responsible for the curve of the spine.

During the operation, an incision is made in your back. The curve in your spine is straightened using metal rods and hooks, and your spine is fused into place using bone grafts (where some bone is taken from another place in your body, usually the pelvis). The procedure will take four to eight hours and is carried out under general anaesthetic.

You may need to stay in hospital for up to a week after the operation, and you will usually have to wear a back brace for up to nine months to support your spine while it heals.

You should be able to return to school, college or work after four to six weeks, and be able to play sports about a year after surgery.

Complications of spinal fusion surgery can include:

  • post-operative infection
  • excessive bleeding at the site of the surgery
  • accidental damage to the discs of the back
  • accidental damage to the nerves that run through the spine, which could result in a paralysis with loss of bladder and bowel function 

Before deciding whether to have spinal surgery, you should discuss the benefits and risks with the doctor in charge of your care.


Page last reviewed: 09/09/2013

Next review due: 09/09/2015