What is Kyphosis (Hump Back)?
Although kyphosis is the term for the natural curvature of the upper, or thoracic spine, the term is also used to describe a pronounced rounding of the upper back. This condition is also known as round back and in severe curves, it can be referred to as hunchback. Sometimes the neck, or cervical spine, may also be affected by an exaggerated curve. Spine specialist, Dr. Ernest Braxton, uses conservative and surgical procedures to treat patients with kyphosis.
What are the Different Types of Kyphosis?
There are three types of kyphosis:
- Postural kyphosis, caused by poor posture
- Scheuermnn’s Kyphosis, a deformity of the vertebrae
- Congenital kyphosis, where vertebrae develop abnormally in utero
What Causes Kyphosis?
Postural kyphosis, the most common kyphosis, develops from poor posture. It typically develops in adolescence and is more commonly seen in girls. Exercise and physical therapy will often correct the disorder. Scheuermann’s kyphosis also starts in adolescence; the vertebrae develop with an irregular growth pattern resulting in the pronounced curve. Congenital kyphosis, with its onset in utero, is improper development of the spinal skeleton. The abnormality may cause a fusion of the vertebrae before birth. Although rare, kyphosis may also be caused by disorders including:
A compression fracture to the vertebrae
A spinal infection, tumor or arthritis
Paraplegia or quadriplegia
How Does Kyphosis Affect the Body?
The cause and severity of the pronounced curve will determine the signs and symptoms. These include:
- Mild pain and fatigue
- Exaggerated hump on the back
- Rounding of the shoulders
- Tightness in the muscles of the back of the thigh or hamstring
As kyphosis progresses, it may also include:
- Tingling, weakness or numbness of the legs
- A loss of sensation in extremities
- Difficulty breathing accompanied by shallow breathing
Are you experiencing spinal pain? Contact Dr. Braxton today.
How to Diagnose a Hump Back?
Dr. Braxton will evaluate a patient’s family and medical history and will conduct a complete physical exam. Imaging tests may be ordered to measure the size and angle of the kyphosis. An assessment of balance, including the ability to stand up straight, will help determine the course of treatment. Blood and bone density tests and a pulmonary function test may also be used to measure lung capacity.
Can Kyphosis be Cured?
If kyphosis is diagnosed at onset during adolescence most patients can be successfully treated with a combination of medication, exercise and physical therapy. If left untreated, the progression of the curve may potentially lead to an increase in symptoms. Regular check-ups with Dr. Braxton are recommended to monitor the progress of the curve.
What Degree of Kyphosis Needs Surgery?
Patients with severe back pain that does not improve with conservative treatment and patients with Scheuermann’s kyphosis who have a 75 degree or greater curvature may benefit from surgery. Spinal fusion is most commonly recommended. The goals of spinal surgery include:
- Restoring the spine to a more normal curve
- Limiting any progressive deformity
- Reduce or eliminate back pain
- Maintain healthy spine over time
As a spine specialist, Dr. Braxton will work closely with each patient to decide on the right course of treatment. His minimally invasive techniques are intended to return patients to full activity as quickly as possible.