Kyphosis is a condition, most often caused by osteoporosis, that changes the shape of your upper spine. As the condition progresses, the spine begins to curve forward which causes a humpback appearance, also sometimes called “dowager’s hump.” If you have noticed changes in how your upper back looks when standing up straight, contact a spine specialist like Dr. Jones, caring for patients in Pearland, Bellaire and the South Houston area.
COMMON CAUSES OF KYPHOSIS
The most common cause of kyphosis is a result of osteoporosis, which is more common in women. Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to produce new bone as fast as the old bone is resorbed. This lowers bone density resulting in soft, brittle bones that are susceptible to fractures and compression.
With osteoporosis-related kyphosis the front of the vertebrae collapses and loses its height while the back of the vertebrae maintains its height, forming a wedge-shape. As the front of the bone is crushed, that area of the spine tips forward, resulting in an excessive forward curve or hump in the upper spine.
Treatment for this will typically be related to treating osteoporosis, making attempts to avoid future bone fractures.
OTHER TYPES OF KYPHOSIS
Other causes of kyphosis in adults include:
- Degenerative kyphosis – Typically caused by spinal arthritis or degenerative disc disease, the deformity develops due to wear and tear on the spine over time.
- Postural kyphosis – Poor posture or excessive slouching over time can cause the curved upper back in both young and older patients.
- Traumatic kyphosis – This is caused by the improper healing of a spinal fracture or injury to the spine’s supporting ligaments.
- Iatrogenic kyphosis – “Iatrogenic” means “as a result of medical intervention.” This type of kyphosis occurs on the rare occasion of a complication after a spinal decompression or other spine surgery.
SYMPTOMS OF KYPHOSIS
Early on, individuals may not even realize they have developed kyphosis. The main symptom of kyphosis is a gradual visible change in the way the back looks due to the curving spine. This humpback appearance will be present even if you’re trying to stand up tall.
You may also notice symptoms such as spinal pain and stiffness, and neck and back aches. In severe cases of kyphosis, the shifting vertebrae exert pressure on the spinal nerves and cause certain organs to become compressed, which leads to severe pain and other problems.
DIAGNOSIS OF KYPHOSIS
Your spine specialist will take time to determine the cause of the spinal curvature. They may need to gather images of the spine to evaluate the vertebrae. They may request one or more of the following:
- CT (CAT) Scan
Nerve tests may also be necessary if you’re experiencing numbness or muscle weakness.
TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR KYPHOSIS
If you are diagnosed with kyphosis, your spine doctor will evaluate the cause and severity of your case before determining a treatment plan.
NON-SURGICAL TREATMENTS FOR KYPHOSIS
Non-surgical kyphosis treatment options vary depending on how severe it is and the cause and may include one or more of the following:
- Prescription and/or over-the-counter pain relievers
- Osteoporosis medications that promote bone-strengthening to reduce the likelihood that your kyphosis will worsen
- Stretching exercises
- Wearing a body brace
- Maintaining a healthy body weight by staying active
SURGICAL TREATMENT FOR KYPHOSIS
Surgery is not always the doctor’s recommendation. However it can be helpful to unpinch the spinal cord or nerve roots. The most common surgery is a spinal fusion that connects two or more of the impacted vertebrae together with metal rods until the spine heals in the correct position.
WHAT TO DO NEXT?
If you have a spinal curvature, excessive upper back stiffness or pain, and/or numbness or muscle weakness, request an appointment with Dr. Thomas Jones at his office in South Houston or in Pearland for an evaluation.