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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago


Kyphosis is a curvature of the spine that causes a rounding of the back, creating a hunched or slouching posture.

A form of it that affects adolescents is known as Scheuermann’s disease, and is caused by several bones of the spine (vertebrae) wedging together.

What Causes Kyphosis?

There are several common causes of kyphosis in adults, including:

  • Fractures in the spine caused by osteoporosis
  • Injury (trauma) to the spine
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spondylolisthesis (slipped disc)

Other diseases can cause kyphosis, including:

  • Connective tissue diseases
  • Some endocrine diseases
  • Infections such as tuberculosis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Neurofibromatoses
  • Paget’s disease
  • Polio
  • Spina bifida
  • Spinal tumors
  • Scoliosis

Signs & Symptoms

In addition to the obvious hunch in the back, other symptoms of kyphosis include:

  • Mild back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing (in severe cases)
  • Stiffness/tenderness in spine

Diagnosis & Testing

Your doctor will conduct a physical examination to determine the nature of the curvature of your spine, and will also look for any underlying problems associated with it. Some additional tests may include:

  • X-ray of the spine
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Pulmonary function tests, in case kyphosis is affecting breathing

What Treatments Are Offered?

The cause of the kyphosis will determine the treatment of it, including:

  • Corrective surgery, in the case of congenital kyphosis
  • Back brace and physical therapy in the case of Scheuermann’s disease, with surgery possible in cases of extreme, painful kyphosis
  • Treatment of osteoporosis in the case of compression fractures; in cases of severe pain or compression of nerves, surgery may be considered
  • Use of medications and, if necessary, surgery, in cases of kyphosis caused by infection

Any time there is involvement with the nervous system, surgery may be required, in order to relieve pressure on the spine.

Last UpdateJanuary 19, 2012