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Kyphosis is a curving of the spine that causes a bowing or rounding of the back, which leads to a hunchback or slouching posture.
Scheuermann disease; Roundback; Hunchback; Postural kyphosis
Kyphosis can occur at any age, although it is rare at birth.
A type of kyphosis that occurs in young teens is known as Scheuermann disease. It is caused by the wedging together of several bones of the spine (vertebrae) in a row. The cause of this condition is unknown.
In adults, kyphosis can be caused by:
Other causes of kyphosis include:
Symptoms may include any of the following:
Physical examination by a health care provider confirms the abnormal curve of the spine. The doctor will also look for any nervous system (neurological) changes (weakness, paralysis, or changes in sensation) below the curve.
Tests that may be ordered include:
Treatment depends on the cause of the disorder:
Treatment for other types of kyphosis depends on the cause. Surgery is needed if nervous system symptoms or persistent pain develop.
Young teens with Scheuermann disease tend to do well, even if they need surgery. The disease stops once they stop growing. If the kyphosis is due to degenerative joint disease or multiple compression fractures, surgery is needed to correct the defect and improve pain.
Untreated kyphosis can cause any of the following:
Treating and preventing osteoporosis can prevent many cases of kyphosis in the elderly. Early diagnosis and bracing for Scheuermann disease can reduce the need for surgery, but there is no way to prevent the disease.
Spiegel DA, Dormans JP. The spine. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW III, et al., eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 671.
Warner WC, Sawyer JR, Kelly DM. Scoliosis and kyphosis. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 41.
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.