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Everything You Need to Know About Kyphosis

Kyphosis is a condition in which the spinal nerves are bent forward. Normally, the spine has a series of curves, which help the body to absorb the shock or load that is put upon the spine due to the weight of the body. Officially, this type of abnormal curvature of the spine is known medically as hyperkyphosis. This can lead to back pain, stiffness, and a changed walking pattern.   

What are the symptoms of kyphosis? 

One of the main symptoms of kyphosis is the appearance of poor posture, which leads to a hum appearance of the back, or other known as the round back. It is also normal to have back pain, muscle fatigue or tension and stiffness in the back. Usually, these symptoms remain the same and they don’t tend to worsen over time. 

It is also normal for those suffering from kyphosis to have an unsteady gait. An unsteady gait, which is the abnormality in walking, is something that can also be caused by conditions to the legs and the feet, or the nervous system that is responsible for controlling the movements that are needed for walking. It can also be caused by an injury or an infection. In mild cases of lordosis, it is barely even noticeable, while in severe cases people may have difficulties performing their daily activities.   

In severe cases or when left untreated, there might be a worsening of symptoms with time. The condition can progress, leading to a more exaggerated hunchback. In very rare and most severe cases, this leads to a compression of the spinal cord and can have neurologic symptoms, which can include weakness, loss of sensation or even the loss of bladder or/and bowel control. It can also limit the space that is in the chest, which can lead to pulmonary problems and cardiac problems. This can lead to chest pain and shortness of breath, which can be as severe as to cause pulmonary or heart failure.   

What causes kyphosis? 

Research has shown that there are three main causes of kyphosis. The most common type is the postural kyphosis. This is a condition that is more common in girls than it is in boys. It usually starts to present itself during adolescence. Poor posture combined with a weakening of the muscles and the ligaments in the back are reasons behind the postural kyphosis. This usually does not affect the vertebrae and they keep their normal shape. It is a condition that slowly develops and doesn’t tend to worsen over time. Postural kyphosis usually leads to back pain and muscle fatigue. Usually, it doesn’t lead to severe kyphosis and there’s little risk that it can lead to severe cardiac or pulmonary complications.  

Another type of kyphosis is Scheuermann’s kyphosis. This also tends to first appear during adolescence. It occurs due to a structural deformity of the vertebrae of the spine. To diagnose this type of kyphosis, it is necessary to do an X-ray of at least 5 degrees at the front of vertebral bodies. It is still unknown what causes this abnormal wedging of the vertebrae.  

The least common type of kyphosis is the congenital kyphosis. It is an abnormal development of the vertebrae which occurs during the development of the spine prior to birth. It can happen, that several of the vertebrae start to grow together in kyphosis. There are also some other conditions that lead to different types of kyphosis, not only in younger people but also laters adults. The most common cause of this type of kyphosis is fractured to the vertebrae from osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones start to lose their density. These deformations can all lead to severe kyphosis. Some other conditions that can lead to kyphosis, are degenerative arthritis, spine infections or tumors of the spine.   

How is kyphosis diagnosed?  

It is important to seek a medical professional if you notice a change in the appearance of your back, accompanied by back pain. Your doctor will first want to find out about your medical history, the time when you first noticed your symptoms, if any of your family members have similar symptoms and if you’ve ever had any problems with your back or neck. 

Next, you can expect the doctor to perform a physical examination. The medical professional will be able to evaluate the curve of your spine when you’re bending forward or while standing upright. Your strength will need to be tested, your reflexes, the sensation as well as the flexibility in your arms and in your legs. Depending on how the physical examination goes, it might be necessary to get an X-Ray of your spine. This helps to differentiate between the three types of kyphosis. 

If there is any evidence of a neurologic injury, it might be necessary to get an MRI of the spine, as this helps to find out whether a spinal cord or a nerve has been compressed. If your kyphosis is causing your chest pain or shortness of breath, then the medical professional might also need to evaluate the heart and the lungs. 

How is kyphosis treated?

Treating kyphosis all depends on the type of kyphosis that you have. Most commonly, nonsurgical treatment will be more than enough. Your medical professional will order you to get physical therapy, as this helps to strengthen the back muscles while correcting the posture. This is especially helpful in cases of postural kyphosis. If you’re experiencing pain, it helps to use mild pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications.   

When it comes to Scheuermann’s kyphosis, health care professionals treat it by combining physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications or mild pain. If the patient is in an age where he or she is still growing, then braces can be very effective. This is especially to be used when the kyphosis has a curve of at least 45 degrees. Medical professionals monitor the kyphosis over time by using X-Rays. n severe cases, surgery is necessary to repair the damage.  

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Comment by Ruth Lyons on January 22, 2020 at 8:12am

I used to have huge problems with my back, and when I visited a doctor the last time, he said if I won't do something, then there is a significant risk that I'll be diagnosed with kyphosis very soon. I started to searching in the net how can I avoid it and reduce the pain in my back. I came across this article where you can find the info here about weighted blanket therapy and decided to try it. That blanket has firm pressure, which reduces pain better than different pills. One and a half months passed, and the doctor said that my condition improved, so now I can recommend that therapy for everyone who suffers from pain because it works.


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