Hunching Every Day? You Could Be Developing Kyphosis

You may remember pictures of older women with their heads leaning forward and a pronounced bump on their back, or even the old-fashioned phrase, "dowager's hump." If you feel that you're hunching forward and are having difficulty sitting or standing with your head in an upright position, you might be developing a similar condition. Curvature of the upper spine can result from a number of causes, but most frequently, it's associated with osteoporosis and bone loss as part of the aging process. The medical name for a curved upper spine is kyphosis. 

What can cause kyphosis?

Osteoporosis is a bone-thinning disorder that occurs when your body can't produce new bone fast enough to replace older bone that's being absorbed. Most common in older adults, especially women, osteoporosis can lead to weakened bones all over the body, including compression fractures and changes in bone size and shape. When the condition occurs in the spine, the bones change shape and begin to lean forward, resulting in the forward curve and visible "hump" of kyphosis.

About 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and an additional 34 million have osteopenia, a related condition resulting in low bone mass. Causes aren't just a lack of calcium or loss of estrogen during aging. Other hormone imbalances in both men and women can contribute to osteoporosis. 

What problems can kyphosis cause?

The more severe the curve of your spine from kyphosis, the greater the potential for additional health problems. A severely curved upper spine can cause breathing difficulties. 

With increased severity, you may also experience problems swallowing and have increased acid reflux from changing body mechanics.

Other problems with kyphosis include problems walking, looking upward, interrupted sleep and pain while lying down. You may also have a poor body image because your back is rounded or you have lost height as a result of the condition.

How can kyphosis be treated?

Thomas L. Jones II, MD and the Spine Institute of Southeast Texas are spine experts. They are experienced in treating patients with spinal disorders and helping them to maintain spinal health. Dr. Jones will determine the cause of your spinal curvature to ensure that you have kyphosis. Dr. Jones may order X-rays or CT scans, nerve tests, bone density tests or an MRI to determine your condition. If you do have kyphosis, you may benefit from a variety of non-surgical treatments, including:

You can exercise self-care by eating a nutritious diet with vitamin D and calcium-rich foods. Because tobacco and alcohol use can contribute to kyphosis as well as other health problems, you will improve your overall health by avoiding these substances.

Surgery for kyphosis may also be an option. Dr. Jones advises conservative care and will recommend surgery only if it is essential to correct kyphosis. 

If you feel like you are hunching over and have some of the symptoms of kyphosis, there are many treatments to help. To learn more, contact Dr. Jones at the Spine Institute of Southeast Texas to learn more.

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