Diagnosing kyphosis 

Kyphosis can usually be diagnosed by examining your spine and taking an X-ray.

Examination

During the examination, your GP may ask you to do a number of exercises to assess whether your balance and range of movement are affected.

Your GP may also ask you to lie down so they can see whether the curvature of your spine is caused by bad posture or a structural problem.

Although it's not always the case, if your spine straightens when you lie down, it's likely that your kyphosis is caused by poor posture (postural kyphosis).

However, if your spine stills curves while you're lying down, it's likely that kyphosis is caused by a problem with the structure of your spine, as found in the Scheuermann's or congenital types of kyphosis.

X-ray and scans

An X-ray can usually confirm the diagnosis and determine the cause of the kyphosis.

Further scans are usually only required if complex treatment, such as surgery, is being planned, or if you have additional symptoms that suggest your nervous system has been affected, such as numbness in your arms or legs.

If you need additional scans you'll probably have a:

Adults

If you develop kyphosis in adulthood, you'll usually need some additional tests to determine the underlying cause.

The tests you'll be referred for depend on any additional symptoms you have. They may include:

  • blood tests – which can check for infections such as tuberculosis
  • a bone density scan – a type of X-ray to assess how strong your bones are; this can be useful for diagnosing conditions that cause weakening of the bones, such as osteoporosis or Paget’s disease
  • CT and MRI scans

Page last reviewed: 19/09/2015

Next review due: 19/09/2017