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Kyphosis FAQ: Normal? Harmful? Do I Need Treatment?

Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.

As we age, we all experience changes in the body, and the skeletal system is no exception. Perhaps you’ve already begun to notice the symptoms of osteoporosis in yourself, a parent or older relative. One of these symptoms – perhaps one of the most visible symptoms – is kyphosis, a condition in which the vertebrae weaken, fracture, and compress, causing a roundness or hump in the spine. This condition can occur at any age, but it is most often seen in older women. (Note: adolescent kyphosis is a different form of kyphosis; it is not discussed in this article.)

How does kyphosis begin?

Osteoporosis-related kyphosis begins when a vertebra in the spine collapses in the front, but retains its height in the back. When this occurs, the spine slumps forward, causing the rounded posture. Osteoporosis-related kyphosis can be worsened by disk degeneration.

Is kyphosis harmful to my overall health?

A collapsed vertebra may be indicative of osteoporosis, a condition that can worsen over time and lead to more collapsed vertebrae and/or bone fractures. While there is no cure for osteoporosis, there are actions you can take to prevent worsening of the condition. Ask your orthopedic physician for more information.

What are the symptoms of kyphosis?

Symptoms may include abnormal curvature of the spine, back pain and stiffness. Mild kyphosis may not cause any symptoms.

How is kyphosis diagnosed?

Kyphosis may be diagnosed during an appointment with your primary care provider or orthopedic physician. The appointment typically includes a physical examination, review of medical history, and reflex/strength testing. Imaging tests, such as x-ray, MRI or CT scan, may be used to see the spine in greater detail. Nerve testing may be recommended in some cases.

Do I need treatment for kyphosis?

In addressing kyphosis, your physician will likely develop an osteoporosis management plan. You could also be advised to take over-the-counter NSAIDs or pain relievers for managing symptoms. Additionally, many patients find symptoms improve when they take charge of their overall health. Regular exercise and stretching, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D are all beneficial strategies. Surgery may be recommended in cases where kyphosis is causing severe curvature and back pain.

Ask a Houston Ortho Doctor Your Questions

Have more questions about kyphosis? Schedule an appointment at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics by calling (713) 756-5546.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.