What is Kyphosis Treatment?

When the upper part of the back (thoracic vertebrae) suffers a deformity that causes the spine to curve outward, doctors may diagnose the condition as kyphosis. People with kyphosis usually possess a hump that protrudes noticeably, causing them to appear "hunchbacked". Shoulders tend to look more rounded than normal as well.

In addition to this hump, individuals with kyphosis usually suffer back pain, difficulty breathing due to excess pressure on the lungs, and digestion problems as a result of the deformity.

Causes of Kyphosis

Kyphosis primarily affects people who continuously engage in poor posture (postural kyphosis). Other reasons for the development of kyphosis include:

  • Age-related bone disorders (arthritis or osteoporosis, for example)
  • Spinal injuries/slipped discs
  • Scoliosis
  • Scheuermann's disease--also called juvenile spinal osteochondrosis, Scheuermann's disease is mostly seen in older children and adolescents and presents a more severe form of postural kyphosis because someone affected by this disease is unable to correct his or her posture
  • Infants born with a malformed spinal column (congenital kyphosis)
  • Nutritional kyphosis--appears in children who do not receive sufficient amounts of vitamin D

How Does a Physician Diagnose Kyphosis?

When a doctor suspects a patient is suffering from kyphosis, the physician will then proceed to ask the following questions:

  • Does anyone in the patient's family have kyphosis? (some types of kyphosis may be genetic)
  • When did the patient begin to notice symptoms? (kyphosis more commonly strikes teenagers and young adults)
  • Is there pain? Does it radiate from the spine or is the pain specific to one area? Is it a sharp pain or a tingling sensation? (important for determining the type of kyphosis)
  • Has the patient undergone previous spinal surgeries?

Doctors will also test reflexes, motor skills and ask the patient to perform bending exercises while taking measurements of the spine in different positions. X-rays of the patient's spine are also ordered and may be sent to a radiologist for further examination.

What Constitutes Kyphosis Treatment?

Methods and devices used in kyphosis treatment correspond to the severity and cause of the kyphosis. For postural kyphosis treatment, physicians and physical therapists may recommend a variety of exercises to strengthen back muscles (paravertebrals). Also, patients may need to temporarily use a therapeutic back support pillow to learn how to sit upright without slouching or bending. Finally, breathing exercises that expand the diaphragm and force the spine to extend may be taught to kyphosis patients by physical therapists specializing in kyphosis treatment.

When are Back Braces Necessary?

People with kyphosis may require more aggressive treatments that integrate wearing back braces or undergoing corrective surgery if the patient suffers from kyphosis due to Scheuermann's disease, scoliosis or nutritional kyphosis. Performing yoga stretches may also help patients regain strength and flexibility of their spine following removal of a back brace.

Patients need to start receiving kyphosis treatment as soon as possible once a diagnosis is made to begin reversing the spinal deformity and returning the back to its normal, healthy state.

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