Is Kyphosis causing my neck or back pain?

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Is Kyphosis causing my neck or back pain?

Kyphosis: Symptoms & Treatment Options

In the large cluster of spinal deformities, kyphosis is regarded as the most common type—edging out even scoliosis 2:1. An abnormal, forward curvature of the thoracic spine distinguishes this condition from other spinal deformities. (Scoliosis, for example, involves an abnormal, lateral (or sideways) curvature in the thoracic and/or lumbar spine.) For this reason, people sometimes refer to this disorder as hunchback or hump back. And, while we do not use these terms in practice, kyphosis is most easily identified by the hunched over posture that it creates.

Specifically, your thoracic spine composes the portion of your backbone located between your neck and the lower back. From a functional perspective, your thoracic spine supports your rib cage and protects your vital organs—like the heart and lungs. Although genetically designed with a slight forward curvature, an exaggerated C-curve of the thoracic spine indicates kyphosis.

In addition, this condition affects older adults—especially older women—more frequently than other populations. Progressive, age-related conditions such as osteoporosis, degenerative spondylolisthesis, and osteoarthritis contribute to these spikes in prevalence. (Each of these conditions affects women disproportionately AND can result in spinal deformity.) However, kyphosis can occur at any time in life for a number of reasons. And, regardless of your age, a variety of troubling symptoms may be present.

Symptoms of Kyphosis

When kyphosis first sets in, you may not notice the external (and internal) side effects. Depending on the individual, further progression of the curve may halt naturally or through a variety of applied interventions. If the condition progresses, however, the C-curve of the spine will continue to exaggerate. Moreover, this will lead to an increased probability that concerning symptoms will arise. Symptoms of abnormal thoracic curvature may include:

  • You may feel pain local to the abnormal arch in spine.
  • Local discomfort may be especially intense if fractures and/or pinched nerves are present.
  • Pain may also radiate down the back or out to the shoulders.
  • The hamstrings may stiffen as they compensate for the forward pull of the upper back.
  • The head may progressively pitch forward, hindering your ability to walk or drive.
  • Extreme curvature may compress the heart & lungs, interfering with cardiac function.
  • In severe cases, compression of the spinal cord can cause loss of sensation or immobility.

Worried that you might be suffering from a spinal deformity? Don’t delay your decision to contact our award-winning team at Advanced Spine! Our seasoned clinicians will evaluate the health of your spine, provide thorough feedback, and deliver minimally invasive treatment options. World-renowned for our expertise in treating spinal deformities, our kyphosis team addresses congenital, age-related, and post-surgical deformities. Whether your condition developed as the result of genetics, poor posture, or failed spinal surgery, our spine team can help! Contact The Advanced Spine Center today and take the first steps toward lifelong spine health.

Types of Kyphosis

In addition, subtypes of kyphosis may include:

Postural: Caused by slouching or poor posture, this type of kyphosis emerges primarily in adolescents, teenagers, young adults, or desk workers. Weak muscles in the back combined with poor posture often causes this form of kyphosis. However, postural kyphosis does not typically leave lasting health problems. You can often remedy this condition through education about proper posture and strength-building exercises that tighten the back and core.

Degenerative: One of the main causes of kyphosis, degeneration of the spine leads to tissue breakdown, reduction of the space between vertebrae, and spinal deformities. An age-related condition, degenerative kyphosis correspondingly worsens with conditions such as osteoporosis, arthritis, or spinal stenosis.

Scheuermann’s: The precise cause of Scheuermann’s Kyphosis is still under study and debate. Researchers believe that a genetic predisposition may lead to improper spinal growth during the adolescent and teenage years. Further, researchers speculate that this abnormal development leads to a rapid loss of cartilage, as well as wedge-shaped vertebrae. In combination, these factors contribute to the 45 to 70-degree curvature that defines this condition. Disputed causes include loss of blood flow to the cartilage (precipitating cartilage loss), mild osteoporosis, and muscle irregularities.

Post-Surgical: Not a particularly uncommon occurrence, spine surgery to fix other spine conditions can sometimes lead to post-surgical kyphosis. New areas of weakness and instability caused by subtractive surgeries, such as microdiscectomies, osteotomies, and foraminotomies, can cause this.

Congenital: Less common but no less severe, congenital kyphosis results from a genetic error that affects the development of the spine in utero. Of particular significance, this disorder leads to the most cases of kyphosis-related paralysis that did not result from a traumatic injury. In addition, researchers have determined that this condition often co-occurs with disorders of the urinary collection system, primarily the kidneys.

Kyphosis Treatment Options

Conservative Treatments

Conservative treatments to address mild kyphosis may include: kyphosis bracing; visiting a physical therapist to work on strength-building exercises; lessons in maintaining healthy posture; and/or NSAID medications to reduce pain and inflammation.

Used to restore vertebral height when fractures are present, a kyphoplasty involves the insertion of a balloon into the collapsed vertebra. Once the balloon is inflated, your doctor will inject a fast-drying cement into the vertebral body to reinforce the spine.

An Osteotomy involves reconstructing the spine by removing slivers of adjacent vertebrae. This process alters the angles between spinal vertebrae, decompresses the heart and lungs, and restores the curvature of the spine as a whole.

Spinal fusions are minimally invasive techniques that use screws and rods to buttress the spine and correct severe spinal curvature. More specifically, post-surgical or degenerative kyphosis may require this specialized form of surgical intervention.

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