Treatment For Kyphosis That Doesn't Require Surgery

Kyphosis is a degeneration of your spine that results in a hunched appearance, even when you try to stand or sit straight. Kyphosis, sometimes referred to as a “dowager’s hump,” is more common in postmenopausal women, due to their increased risk for bone-weakening and bone loss from osteoporosis. But men, younger women, children, and teens can all have or develop kyphosis.

Why you hunch

Normal, healthy vertebrae (the bones in your spine) sit directly on top of one another, like a stack of cylinders. If the vertebrae in your upper back are damaged or deformed, they become more wedge-shaped, rather than cylindrical. The sloping of the wedges causes your spine to curve forward and create a hunched look.

Your vertebrae may be damaged or deformed due to:

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis refers to bone loss caused by prolonged steroid use in men or women or by hormonal changes and aging in postmenopausal women.

Fractures

Mild compression fractures in the spine due to sports injury or overuse may not cause noticeable symptoms at first.

Poor posture

Regularly slouching and hunching over your laptop and other work can degrade your vertebrae and discs over time, deforming the shape of your spine.

Degenerated or slipped discs

Age-related deterioration of the protective tissue that cushions and separates your vertebrae can lead to kyphosis.

Birth defects and medical syndromes

Spinal bones that never develop fully or are affected by an infection, vitamin deficiency, or a condition such as Marfan syndrome, are most common in children and teens.

Sudden growth spurt  

A spine curvature that occurs during a prepubertal growth spurt (known as Scheuermann’s kyphosis) more often affects boys than girls.  

Cancer

Chemotherapy, radiation, and cancer itself may weaken your spine, putting you more at risk for compression fractures and kyphosis.

Rarely, you could develop kyphosis as a complication of spinal decompression or surgery.

What hunching does to your body

Whether your child has kyphosis or it’s something you’ve developed due to injury or age, the first symptom you notice is probably the change in your back’s appearance. A curved, hunched spine makes you feel less attractive and may accentuate your age. The compression of your vertebrae can also cause other symptoms, such as:

When you suspect kyphosis, the orthopedic specialists at The Spine Institute of Southeast Texas conduct a thorough examination to determine the cause of your spinal curvature. In order to pinpoint the cause of kyphosis and determine the best course of treatment, your doctor may order:

When kyphosis is caught early, Dr. Thomas Jones II, the board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon at The Spine Institute, usually recommends nonsurgical treatments. If you don’t treat kyphosis and it worsens, you may develop complications, including trouble breathing or digesting, and limited mobility.

Take the pressure off

Kyphosis treatment involves resolving the curvature, strengthening bone when necessary, and alleviating any pain. For most cases of mild kyphosis-related back pain, over-the-counter medications containing acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium are sufficient to keep you comfortable. If your pain is severe, Dr. Jones may prescribe stronger medication.

He also encourages you to build up the strength of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support your spine. Recommended exercises include gentle stretches that increase your spine’s flexibility, and strengthening exercises for your abdominal and back muscles. He may also prescribe physical therapy to help you regain mobility and achieve a healthier posture.

If you’re overweight, Dr. Jones recommends a weight-loss program that emphasizes whole foods and regular exercise to help you achieve a healthy body mass index. Unneeded pounds exert pressure on your spine, worsening the curvature, and also limit your mobility.

For children or teens with kyphosis, Dr. Jones may recommend wearing a body brace to help the spine grow straight. If you have osteoporosis, he may prescribe bone-building medications to help prevent fractures and stop your kyphosis from worsening. When the kyphosis is severe or if you have debilitating symptoms, Dr. Jones may recommend spinal fusion surgery to strengthen and straighten your spine.

Don’t let kyphosis progress. If you or your child has a hunched posture or back pain, call us for an evaluation. You can also book a consultation using our handy online form.

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