The Link Between Osteoporosis and Kyphosis

Did you know that osteoporosis can cause kyphosis, or curvature of the spine?

If you’ve noticed that your upper back and shoulders look more rounded as you age, you may have kyphosis. The condition affects between 20-40% of adults in the US, with frequency and severity increasing with age. The degree of deformity varies depending on the severity of the condition. While there are several causes of kyphosis, osteoporosis ranks as the most common reason for this condition in adults.

Getting an accurate diagnosis for the type and cause of your kyphosis is an important first step in treatment. Board-certified orthopedic surgeon Thomas Jones II, MD, of Spine Institute of Southeast Texas, provides expert diagnoses of spinal curvature for patients in Pearland, Lake Jackson, and Houston, Texas. Dr. Jones has the skill and experience necessary to create a treatment plan appropriate for the cause and severity of your kyphosis. 

What is kyphosis? 

Kyphosis is a deformity of the spine that results in an exaggerated curve of the upper back. In a normal spine, the natural curve balances your head over your pelvis. However, if one of the natural curves is too great or too small, your head can’t remain properly balanced and rests in a hunched over position. 

A normal spine bends from 20 to 45 degrees in the upper spine. With kyphosis, this curvature measures 50 degrees or greater on an x-ray. Some other symptoms of kyphosis include:

In severe cases of kyphosis, you may experience breathing problems, limited physical function when walking and getting out of chairs, pain when lying down, and digestive problems.

Diagnosis of kyphosis typically includes an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI. A nuclear bone scan can provide information about the age of the fracture if necessary.  

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disease in which your body loses too much bone or fails to make enough new bone due to age. The condition reduces the density and quality of your bones. As they become more porous and brittle with osteoporosis, they become more susceptible to fractures. The most common fractures in osteoporosis occur at the hip and spine. 

How does osteoporosis cause kyphosis?

In adults, kyphosis usually results from vertebral fractures or compression fractures that come as the result of osteoporosis. These fractures, also called wedge fractures, collapse the bone in the front of the spine and leave the back of the bone unchanged, resulting in a wedge-shaped vertebra. Since the majority of damage affects the front of your spine, the fracture doesn’t result in nerve or spinal cord damage. 

Because your bones are so brittle from osteoporosis, you can experience a vertebral fracture from activities such as lifting, bending or falling. The more advanced your condition, the less intensity required to cause a fracture. If you have advanced osteoporosis, you can experience a fracture from minor movement involved in coughing, sneezing, or even turning over while you sleep.  

Unfortunately, you may not recognize a vertebral fracture when it occurs. Of adults over 50, about one in three women and one in five men will experience osteoporotic fractures. Many times, the pain is regarded as general back pain, muscle strain, or part of the normal aging process. About 66% of all vertebral fractures remain undiagnosed and untreated

What treatments help kyphosis caused by osteoporosis?

Treatment of kyphosis depends on your age and the severity of your condition. Non-surgical treatment can help strengthen your back muscles and correct deformed posture. 

Common non-surgical treatment for kyphosis includes pain medication or osteoporosis medication that promotes bone-strengthening. Physical therapy or a body brace can help strengthen weakened back muscles. If you’re overweight, your treatment plan may include a diet to establish and maintain a healthy body weight. 

For severe kyphosis, spinal reconstructive surgery may take the pressure off a pinched nerve and stabilize the spine. Spinal fusion permanently joins two or more vertebrae together. This eliminates painful movement between the vertebrae and can strengthen the spine. 

If you’re experiencing symptoms of kyphosis, get a proper diagnosis and find out your treatment options. Schedule an appointment online or call one of our offices to arrange a consultation.

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