Kyphosis is a condition where the convex curvature of the back is abnormally increased causing a hunched back and may lead to formation of a dowager’s hump, in severe cases. Patients begin to develop symptoms such as nerve compression with the progression of the disease. Prominent kyphosis can lead to intestinal obstruction resulting in pain the lower abdomen area. Kyphosis causes abdominal conditions such as gastrointestinal reflux disease (a digestive disorder), compression of abdominal contents, pain or hiatal hernia (a condition in which a part of the stomach is pushed into the diaphragm).

A normal spine has three curves which enables it to absorb the load on the spine due to the weight of the body. These are the inward curvature at the cervical spine or the neck region of the spine and the lower back, and the outward curvature at the thoracic spine, or the upper back region. These normal curves of the spine allow the head to be balanced directly over the pelvis.

Kyphosis is a spinal disorder referring to an abnormal outward rounding of the back, creating an appearance of a hunchback. It usually develops in the thoracic spine, or the upper back. It can also develop in the neck region, in which case it is known as cervical kyphosis, and in the lumbar spinal region (lower back).

There are many causes of kyphosis. Some of them are:

  • Osteoporosis: This is the usual cause of kyphosis in adults. In this condition, the bones become fragile and are more likely to break.
  • Congenital Kyphosis: An abnormal development of the spine in the womb which results in two or more vertebrae sometimes fusing together.
  • Spondylolisthesis: An abnormal slipping or dislocation between two vertebrae.
  • Postural Kyphosis: Poor posture such as slouching and leaning back in the chairs. And carrying heavy bags can stretch the supporting muscles and ligaments which can increase the spinal curvature. This is more common in girls than in boys and is usually first noticed during adolescence.
  • Scheuermann’s Kyphosis: A structural deformity of the vertebrae due to which they can end up being out of position.
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis: A type of arthritis characterized by a chronic inflammation of the spine and the sacroiliac joints.
  • Cancer: Cancer in the spine can weaken them and hence make them more susceptible to fractures. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation treatments can also have a similar effect.
  • Degenerative changes in the spine due to age or other factors.
  • Spinal infections and tumor

The treatment for kyphosis depends on the underlying causes, severity and any additional symptoms. Nonoperative treatments like medications, physical therapy and braces are considered before resorting to surgery.

Surgery for kyphosis is carried out if the pain is severe and not relieved by nonoperative treatments, if the condition is progressing, has resulted in a physical deformity or if patient is suffering from congenital kyphosis.