Kyphosis 

Introduction 

Kyphosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine that can be caused by poor posture or a problem with the spine's structure 

Back pain guide

Back pain guide

Explore this guide for information about different types of back pain, ways of preventing it and advice on treatment

Kyphosis is curvature of the spine that causes the top of the back to appear more rounded than normal. 

While some degree of curvature is normal, a curve of more than 60 degrees is considered a sign of kyphosis.

Sometimes kyphosis does not cause any symptoms other than the back appearing abnormally curved or hunched. However, in some cases the condition causes back pain and stiffness, tenderness of the spine and tiredness.

Back pain can be particularly problematic in adults with kyphosis because the body has to compensate for the spinal abnormality.

If you have severe kyphosis, your symptoms may get worse over time. You may also have difficulty breathing and eating.

What causes kyphosis?

In kyphosis, the middle section of vertebrae (the thoracic vertebrae) is curved out of position. There are a number of reasons why this might happen, including:

  • poor posture (postural kyphosis) – slouching, leaning back in chairs and carrying heavy bags can stretch supporting muscles and ligaments, which can pull the thoracic vertebrae out of their normal position
  • abnormally shaped vertebrae (Scheuermann’s kyphosis) – if the vertebrae do not develop in the right way, they can end up being out of position
  • abnormal development of the spine in the womb (congenital kyphosis) – if something disrupts the spine's normal development, two or more vertebrae sometimes fuse together

Kyphosis can also develop as a result of a spinal injury.

Read more about the causes of kyphosis.

Treating kyphosis

If you have kyphosis, your treatment will depend on how curved your spine is, whether you have any additional symptoms such as back pain, and the underlying causes.

Children with mild kyphosis may not need to be treated because they may grow out of the condition as their body matures. Alternatively, it may be possible to correct the spine using non-surgical treatments, such as bracing.

Kyphosis rarely requires surgical treatment. It's only needed in some severe cases to correct the curvature of the spine.

Read more about treating kyphosis.

Complications

Older children with kyphosis may become concerned or embarrassed about the effect the condition has on their appearance, or the fact that they have to wear a back brace.

These concerns can affect different children in different ways. Some children can become socially withdrawn and they may be reluctant to take part in activities, such as PE, where their condition may be exposed.

There are no easy answers to these problems. However, it can often help to reassure your child that their condition is only temporary and will improve with time.

Read more about the complications of kyphosis.

Can kyphosis be prevented?

Postural kyphosis can be prevented by being aware of your posture and by taking care of your back. You should encourage your child to:

  • avoid slouching
  • sit correctly – sit upright, ensuring that the small of the back is supported
  • avoid carrying heavy schoolbags that can pull on the back muscles and ligaments; the best schoolbags are well-designed backpacks
  • take regular exercise (see below) to help strengthen the back and keep it flexible; activities such as swimming, running and walking are ideal for helping to prevent back problems

Further information:




Page last reviewed: 09/09/2013

Next review due: 09/09/2015

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Back pain

Tips to keep your back healthy and avoid pain, including exercises and advice on good posture

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