Kyphosis is a forward rounding of your upper back. Some rounding is normal, but the term "kyphosis" usually refers to an exaggerated rounding — sometimes called round back or hunchback. While kyphosis can occur at any age, it's most common in older women where the deformity is known as a dowager's hump.
Age-related kyphosis often occurs after osteoporosis weakens spinal bones to the point that they crack and compress. A few types of kyphosis target infants or teens.
Mild kyphosis may cause few problems. But severe cases can affect your lungs, nerves, and other tissues and organs, causing pain and other problems. Treatment for kyphosis depends on your age, the cause of the curvature and its effects.
An exaggerated outward curve of the upper spine is called kyphosis. ...
In addition to an abnormally curved spine, kyphosis can also cause back pain and stiffness in some people. Mild cases of kyphosis may produce no noticeable signs or symptoms.
When to see a doctor
The individual bones (vertebrae) that make up a healthy spine look like squares stacked in a column. Kyphosis occurs when the vertebrae in the upper back become more wedge-shaped. This deformity can be caused by a variety of problems, including:
An exaggerated curve in the upper spine also can be caused by slouching. Called postural kyphosis, this problem doesn't involve any deformities in the spine. It's most common in teenagers, particularly girls.
Certain groups of people are at higher risk of kyphosis:
Kyphosis may cause the following complications:
Preparing for your appointment
If you or your child has signs or symptoms common to kyphosis, make an appointment with your family doctor. He or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of spine disorders.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
During the physical exam, your doctor will check your height and may ask you to bend forward from the waist while he or she views the spine from the side. With kyphosis, the rounding of the upper back may become more obvious in this position. Your doctor might also perform a neurological exam to check your reflexes and muscle strength.
Lung function tests
Treatments and drugs
Kyphosis treatment depends on the cause of the condition and the signs and symptoms that are present.
Surgical and other procedures
The most common procedure, called spinal fusion, connects two or more of the affected vertebrae permanently. Surgeons insert bits of bone between the vertebrae and then fasten the vertebrae together with metal wires, plates and screws.
The complication rate for spinal surgery is relatively high. Complications include bleeding, infection, pain, nerve damage, arthritis and disk degeneration. If the surgery fails to correct the problem, a second surgery may be needed.
Coping and support
Adolescence is a time when young people are struggling with physical and emotional changes. Having a noticeable spinal deformity or wearing a brace can make this challenging time even more difficult.
Make sure your child has caring people to turn to, including supportive family and friends, or even a professional counselor, if necessary. Consider joining a support group for parents and kids with kyphosis or other spinal deformities to help you and your child connect with others facing similar challenges.
Last Updated: 2012-06-14
© 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
Terms and conditions of use