Kyphosis

  • Medical Author:
    Jason C. Eck, DO, MS

    Dr. Eck received a Bachelor of Science degree from the Catholic University of America in Biomedical Engineering, followed by a Master of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering from Marquette University. Following this he worked as a research engineer conducting spine biomechanics research. He then attended medical school at University of Health Sciences. He is board eligible in orthopaedic surgery.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Kyphosis facts

  • There are three main types of kyphosis: postural, Scheuermann's, and congenital.
  • Most cases of kyphosis do not require any treatment.
  • Physical therapy and exercise are often effective in postural and Scheuermann's kyphosis.
  • Surgery is recommended for congenital kyphosis and more severe cases of Scheuermann's kyphosis.

What is kyphosis?

The spine has a series of normal curves when viewed from the side. These curves help to better absorb the loads applied to the spine from the weight of the body. The cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (lower back) are have a normal inward curvature that is medically referred to as lordosisor "lordotic" curvature by which the spine is bent backward. The thoracic spine (upper back) has a normal outward curvature that is medically referred to as kyphosis or the "kyphotic" curve by which the spine is bent forward. In this discussion, the term kyphosis will be used to discuss abnormal kyphosis.

The spine is normally straight when looking from the front. An abnormal curve when viewed from the front is called scoliosis. Scoliosis can occur from bony abnormalities of the spine at birth, growth abnormalities especially with adolescence, degenerative spinal changes in adulthood, or abnormal twisting of the vertebrae because of muscle spasm after an injury.

The normal curves of the spine allow the head to be balanced directly over the pelvis. If one or more of these curves is either too great or too small, the head may not be properly balanced over the pelvis. This can lead to back pain, stiffness, and an altered gait or walking pattern.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/2/2015
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