Why Women Are More Prone to Kyphosis

Kyphosis is a postural condition that most often affects older women. In fact, it’s commonly known as Dowager’s hump due to the frequency with which women are affected. 

Degenerative diseases like arthritis and bone loss are the most common causes of kyphosis. However, injury and poor posture contribute to the development of kyphosis in some cases.

What is kyphosis?

Kyphosis is an exaggerated forward curvature of the bones (vertebrae) in the upper back that results in a bent-over position. In severe cases, this curvature is so pronounced that the affected individual’s face points toward the ground. Complications can include chronic upper back pain. While women and men can develop kyphosis, it’s much more common in women.

Degenerative disease is the most common reason kyphosis develops. Arthritis can cause progressive changes to the upper back that causes kyphosis. Fractures caused by osteoporosis can lead to kyphosis as well. Other causes include hormonal disease, tumors, and scoliosis.

Why women are at a higher risk for kyphosis

Estrogen plays a key role in bone health. It helps regulate bone resorption, that is, the process of breaking down bone tissue and releasing minerals into the bloodstream. Because bone is living tissue, your body is constantly breaking down bone and creating new bone tissue.

Before menopause, estrogen helps keep the balance between how much bone the body breaks down and how much it creates. As women transition through menopause, the ovaries gradually decrease their production of estrogen.

A woman officially enters menopause when at least 12 months have passed since her last period. At this point, estrogen levels have sharply declined. The low estrogen levels after menopause mean you’re at risk for bone loss and osteoporosis.

Bone loss accelerates after menopause. If you aren’t careful, the body will break down old bone much faster than it replaces it, leaving you with weak brittle bones that break easily during everyday activities such as bending. Because bone loss speeds up, this leaves older women at risk for a host of bone and degenerative issues, such as kyphosis.

How to prevent kyphosis

Older women aren’t destined to develop kyphosis. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your bone health and prevent kyphosis from developing.

Practice good posture: Poor posture contributes to the development of kyphosis. It is never too late to start practicing good posture.

Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight accelerates the wear and tear on your body and raises the risk of arthritic conditions.

Adopt an active lifestyle: A combination of aerobic and weight-bearing exercise helps retain bone density and keep bones strong. It is well-established that remaining physically active as you get older protects against bone loss.

Supplement calcium and vitamin D: Both nutrients play a vital role in keeping your bones strong and healthy. A deficiency of calcium and vitamin D is more common in older women. If you’re over 50, talk to your doctor about supplementing with calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones strong.

Treating kyphosis

If you have kyphosis, a spine specialist is the best place to start. Here at The Spine Institute of Southeast Texas, our board-certified orthopedic surgeon and kyphosis specialist Thomas Jones II, MD treats patients with kyphosis with the highest quality of care.

Dr. Jones recommends conservative treatments, such as bone-strengthening medication, pain relievers, and lifestyle changes, as the initial approach to managing kyphosis. If conservative treatments provide inadequate relief, Dr. Jones has extensive experience in surgical options such as spinal fusion.

We have offices in Houston, Pearland, and Lake Jackson, Texas, to serve you. To learn more about your kyphosis treatment options, contact the nearest office for a consultation or use our scheduling tool to request an appointment today. 

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