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Kyphosis is the term used to describe an abnormal outward curvature of the spine. If severe, the condition can contribute to a “hunchback” appearance, and may require spine surgery for treatment.


types of kyphosis

A certain degree of curvature is normal in the human spine. In fact, the gentle inward and outward curves of the neck, upper back and lower back are necessary for keeping the body properly balanced and aligned over the pelvis. Kyphotic curves are the outward curves; those that curve inward are called lordotic. The term kyphosis is generally used to describe an excessive outward curve, or rounding, of the spine. Again, some kyphosis is normal – typically 20-50 degrees; curves greater than 50 degrees are considered abnormal. A spine with kyphosis can look normal, or it can develop a “humpback” appearance.

Mild kyphosis may cause few problems; however, severe kyphotic curvature can affect the lungs, nerves and other tissues and organs, causing pain and other problems. There are several types of kyphosis, and the condition can be found in children, adolescents and adults.

Postural kyphosis, or postural roundback, is the most common form of kyphosis and is often attributed to poor posture. Habitually “slouching” can stretch spinal ligaments and contribute to abnormal vertebral formation. The condition usually appears during adolescence, and is more common in girls than boys. Postural kyphosis is marked by a smooth, flexible curve that is not typically associated with pain, and usually doesn’t lead to problems later in life.

Scheueremann's kyphosis most commonly develops in teenage boys. It is characterized by a short, sharp curvature in the middle part of the upper spine, and may be associated with aching back pain. This type of kyphosis tends to be rigid on clinical examination. A mild degree of scoliosis is common in adolescents with Scheueremann's kyphosis.

Congenital kyphosis can be caused by a malformation of the spinal column during fetal development. Several vertebrae may be fused together or the bones may not form properly. This type of kyphosis may worsen as the child grows. Disorders that can contribute to kyphosis in adults include:

  • Osteoporosis, which can lead to vertebral compression fractures of the spine;
  • Degenerative spinal conditions, such as arthritis
  • Infections
  • Tumors
  • Spina bifida
  • Paralytic diseases such as cerebral palsy and polio, which can stiffen the bones of the spine
  • Connective tissue disorders, such as Marfan syndrome
  • Trauma


The symptoms of kyphosis may include:

  • Slouching posture or hunchback
  • Mild back pain
  • Spinal stiffness or tenderness
  • Fatigue

In mild cases, kyphosis may produce no noticeable signs or symptoms.


To determine whether kyphosis is present, your doctor will conduct a thorough examination of your back to check for an abnormal curvature. If kyphosis is suspected, your doctor will do a spinal x-ray to determine the severity of the curve and to check for any deformity in the vertebrae. If your doctor suspects a tumor or infection, he or she may request an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of your spine. Your doctor will also check to see if you’re experiencing any neurological changes (weakness, paralysis, or impaired sensation) below the level of the curve. To determine whether the curve is affecting your breathing, your doctor also may conduct tests to check your pulmonary function.

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Treatment Options

Treatment decisions regarding kyphosis are based upon the patient’s age and physical condition, the cause of the curvature, the degree of deformity, the risk of progression and the severity of symptoms associated with the kyphosis. Treatment options for kyphosis include observation, exercise/physical therapy, bracing or surgery.

Surgical treatment is reserved for severe curves and in instances where non-surgical therapies have failed to provide sufficient symptom relief over a reasonable length of time. Surgical treatment consists of both a correction of the deformity using spinal instrumentation and fusion of the involved portion of the spine to prevent progression.

The decision to treat kyphosis surgically requires careful consideration between you and your doctor. Factors to be considered are your specific condition and overall physical health. Discuss your condition thoroughly with your doctor, and rely on his or her judgment regarding which treatment option is most appropriate.

Kyphosis Specialist

An outward curve in the top of your spine is perfectly normal, but it can cause pain and other problems if the curvature becomes too extreme. This condition is called kyphosis. If you have kyphosis, experienced surgeons Steve Paragioudakis, MD, and Marc Menkowitz, MD at the Center for the Functional Restoration of the Spine can help. They offer cutting edge treatments, including vertebroplasty, kyphoplasty, and spinal fusion to correct kyphosis. Find out more by calling the Shrewsbury, Toms River, or Edison, New Jersey, office or book an appointment online today.

Kyphosis Q & A

What is kyphosis?

What are the types of kyphosis?

How is kyphosis treated?

Would I need surgery for kyphosis?

What is kyphosis?

Kyphosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. Your spine is supposed to curve in and out as it goes down your back to ensure your body is balanced, and everything lines up correctly. Curves that go outward are kyphotic; curves that go inward are lordotic. If you have kyphosis, it means your spine curves excessively outward. A normal kyphotic curve is somewhere between 20 and 50 degrees. Anything over 50 degrees would be kyphosis.

What are the types of kyphosis?

There are several forms of kyphosis which can affect both children and adults:

Postural kyphosis

Postural kyphosis is the most common kind of kyphosis. Poor posture – constantly slouching and letting your shoulders slump – can stretch the ligaments and change the way your vertebrae develop. It usually affects adolescents but doesn't typically cause problems.

Scheuermann's kyphosis

This form of kyphosis tends to affect teenage boys. It causes a sharp but short curvature in the middle of your upper spine that can result in aching back pain. It's common for young people with Scheuermann's kyphosis to have a mild degree of scoliosis as well.

Congenital kyphosis

Congenital kyphosis develops if the spinal column doesn't form correctly when a baby is in the womb. Vertebrae might fuse, or the bones fail to grow as they should. Congenital kyphosis can worsen as the child grows. Osteoporosis, which can cause vertebral compression fractures in your spine, is a common cause of kyphosis. Other conditions that can contribute to adult kyphosis include:

  • Arthritis
  • Infections
  • Tumors
  • Spina bifida
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Polio
  • Marfan syndrome
  • Trauma

If your kyphosis is mild, it might not cause any symptoms at all. Severe kyphosis may cause chronic pain and put pressure on your organs and nerves.

How is kyphosis treated?

Treatment for kyphosis depends on factors such as your age, physical health, the cause of your kyphosis, how severe it is, and the outlook if your condition goes untreated. The team at the Center for the Functional Restoration of the Spine initially uses non-surgical options like medication, physical therapy, and bracing. If these aren't successful, you may require an intervention to correct the curvature. If your kyphosis is due to vertebral compression fractures, then vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are potential solutions. Both treatments involve injecting bone cement into the damaged vertebrae to reinforce the bone and stabilize your spine. With kyphoplasty, your provider at the Center for the Functional Restoration of the Spine first inflates a balloon within the bone to raise the height of the damaged vertebra.

Would I need surgery for kyphosis?

Surgical treatment is usually only necessary if you have severe kyphosis or non-surgical therapies that aren't providing sufficient symptom relief after a reasonable length of time. Surgery for kyphosis consists of curvature correction using spinal instrumentation, followed by fusion of the affected vertebrae. If you're experiencing problems with pain and stiffness due to kyphosis, call Center for the Functional Restoration of the Spine today, or book an appointment online.

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