Kyphosis is an antero-posterior curvature of the thoracic area of the spine and affects the region between the shoulder blades, thus rounding the back and projecting the neck forward. Normally, the spine curves in the neck area, upper back, to absorb the effect of supporting body weight.
If you have kyphosis, there is a hump on the upper back, and the deformity leads to additional pressure on the spine and even difficulty breathing.
Kyphosis can vary depending on the severity. In general, the larger the curve, the worse the condition. Smaller curves can cause mild back pain, or they can be asymptomatic. More severe curves can cause significant deformities of the spine, and can result in a visible hump on the patient’s back.
What are the causes of Kyphosis?
The most common cause of kyphosis is fracture of the vertebrae due to osteoporosis. It can affect men and women, but is prevalent in women. Left untreated, osteoporosis weakens the vertebrae of the spine, and they become more susceptible to fractures. Generally, the front of the bone is crushed, after which it goes inwards; the opposite side forms the kyphotic curve and, consequently, the posture acquires a forward inclination. Deformations can be based on many causes:
- Degenerate discs – the intervertebral discs have a supporting role, they are like pillows between the vertebrae. As we age, the discs dry out and shrink, which can lead to kyphosis;
- Scheuermann’s disease – also called Scheuermann’s kyphosis, occurs during growth, before puberty. Boys have a higher risk than girls, and rounding of the back can worsen when the young man stops growing. The disease is thought to occur due to avascular necrosis of the cartilage in the vertebral area. In other words, cartilage dies from lack of blood. An incorrect posture at the office, for example, can aggravate Scheuermann’s disease;
- Birth defects – if a child’s spine does not develop normally, this abnormality can cause kyphosis;
- Marfan syndrome – is an inherited disease, which occurs because the body does not produce a group of proteins that provide strength and elasticity to tissues;
- Prader Willi disease – is a genetic condition, which is manifested by muscle weakness, mild mental retardation and an increased appetite. As a result, many patients have obesity and / or type 2 diabetes;
- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – is a set of genetic disorders of connective tissues. The first symptoms appear in childhood and include joint problems, skin and blood vessel abnormalities. It is believed to occur against the background of genetic mutations;
- Specific treatment for cancerous tumors and cancer – especially cancer of the spine can weaken the vertebrae. Chemotherapy and radiation treatment can also cause kyphosis.
What are the symptoms of Kyphosis?
Mild kyphosis is not marked by symptoms, but some forms (or when the disease is in an advanced stage) can be manifested by:
- the appearance of an inappropriate position;
- the appearance of the hump;
- back pain;
- feeling of stiffness.
What is the treatment of Kyphosis?
In general, the treatment of kyphosis depends on age, medical history, type of kyphosis, severity of the disease. The treatment aims to correct the posture, in mild cases of kyphosis, or to stop the aggravation of the disease or to avoid complications, in rare cases, which require surgery. Taking into account these factors, you have at your disposal the medical, surgical, physiotherapeutic treatment, but also the wearing of a corrective corset.
In the first phase, the doctor will recommend over-the-counter medications because they are not as strong as those prescribed. For kyphosis, medications such as:
Acetaminophen (paracetamol) – does not reduce inflammation, but relieves pain;
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (eg, ibuprofen or naproxen) – reduce both inflammation and pain.
It is important to know that drugs do not cure kyphosis, they only reduce pain or inflammation.
Surgery is recommended in several cases of kyphosis:
- Congenital kyphosis;
- For people with Scheuermann’s kyphosis, who have curves greater than 75 degrees;
- For people with severe back pain that does not improve with medication.
- The most commonly used intervention in kyphosis is called spinal fusion and is a “welding” process. The goal of the operation is to fuse the vertebrae to heal in a single bone. Fixing the vertebrae will reduce the degree of curvature and eliminate the movement between the vertebrae, thus disappearing the pain.
During the procedure, the vertebrae that form the curve are real, to reduce from kyphosis. Subsequently, bone grafts are placed in the spaces between the vertebrae that will be fused. To increase the speed of fusion, the surgeon will use metal screws, plates and rods, which will help stabilize the spine.
Physiotherapy is recommended for both children and adults. A well-developed exercise program soothes pain and inflammation, improves mobility and strength, and helps you perform daily activities more easily. Generally, physical therapy sessions are scheduled 2-3 times a week for a few weeks or even months.
Of course, physical therapy depends on the stage of the disease and the type of kyphosis. Thus, for postural kyphosis, the therapist can help you learn how to adopt a correct position and strengthen your back muscles, respectively the paravertebral ones, which attach to the spine and provide support.
Corset for treating kyphosis
Wearing a corset is especially recommended to treat Scheuermann’s kyphosis. Although not recommended in postural kyphosis, it can help straighten the spine after a fracture (for example, in the event of an accident). The corset can slow the progress of the curve and help control pain. Also, by wearing the corset, you can avoid surgery later, when other forms of treatment do not work.
Depending on the case, the corset can be worn from a few weeks to a few months or even longer. For starters, wear 20-24 hours a day, after which the number of hours gradually decreases. In adults, wearing a corset will not straighten the spine, but will only relieve the pain.