What is Kyphosis?
Kyphosis is a deformity of the spine that manifests as a curve in the backbone, resulting in a “humped” appearance.
Most of the time kyphosis occurs in the thoracic region (upper back), but can also occur in the cervical region (neck) or lumbar region (lower back).
Kyphosis is caused by vertebrae in the upper back taking on a wedge shape, causing the spine to tilt forward and form a hump. The reasons for these vertebrae becoming misshapen can vary — osteoporosis, fractures, disc degeneration, birth defects, Scheuermann’s disease, childhood syndromes, and cancer and its treatments.
The most common cause is a vertebral fracture due to osteoporosis; however, fractures due to injuries also contribute to the total number of cases.
Common Symptoms of Kyphosis
Kyphosis can be asymptomatic (apart from the appearance of the spinal curvature) in some individuals, while others experience a wide range of symptoms. It’s important that all symptoms are reported for an accurate diagnosis.
The most common symptoms of kyphosis can include the following:
- Pain in the neck and back
- Stiffness, especially in the upper body
- Muscle weakness
- Balance issues such as falling
- Physical deformity
- Reduced stature
- Disruption of nerve impulses
Diagnosis of Kyphosis
Kyphosis is generally straightforward to diagnose. With a combination of diagnostic tools and techniques, it can be easily isolated. Some of the tools that are frequently used to diagnose kyphosis include the following:
- Physical exam
- Neurological assessment
- CT scans
- Bone density tests
Treatment Options for Kyphosis
Depending on the severity of the kyphosis, a number of different treatments may be recommended. In most cases, non-surgical treatments are tried first. If this proves unsuccessful or it’s apparent that there is an immediate need, surgery may be performed.
Non-surgical kyphosis treatments
- Pain medication and anti-inflammatories
- Special braces
- Physical therapy
Surgical kyphosis treatments
An osteotomy procedure is a surgical procedure that cuts and reshapes your bones.
Spinal instrumentation & fusion
Spinal fusion joins two or more vertebrae. Different types of bone grafts can be used, including an autograft (patient’s own bone), an allograft (donor bone) and a bone morphogenetic protein (BMP). A bone graft is placed between the spinal instrumentation in spaces where it will heal properly. Implanted instrumentation stabilizes the spine after surgery, strengthening the spine and maintaining proper alignment while the fusion occurs. Depending on the type of fusion performed, the patient may need to wear a brace after surgery for support during healing.
Balloon kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive treatment that repairs spinal fractures. During the procedure, orthopedic balloons are used to elevate the fractured vertebra to return it to the correct position. To stabilize the fracture, bone cement is injected. The procedure typically takes up to one hour per fracture level treated. It can be done on an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending on your overall state of health as determined by your physician.