Also called a roundback, kyphosis is a condition that creates an over-curvature of the thoracic part of the back, often caused by a vertebral fracture.

What is Kyphosis?

  • The spinal condition, kyphosis, is an abnormal spinal curve that causes the patient's back to have a rounded appearance. Kyphosis may be caused by an osteoporosis fracture that has partially collapsed the vertebrae.
  • When the osteoporosis fracture has partially collapsed the vertebrae, it is then classified as a compression fracture. Kyphosis develops from the constant pressure on the vertebrae. The pressure then forces the vertebrae and spine to jut outward, creating the roundback look to the back.
  • Osteoporosis fractures occur in patients with porous and brittle bones that have become fragile due to osteoporosis, which is a type of arthritis that affects the spine. Many osteoporosis fractures develop over time, or happen suddenly due to an unexpected fall or twisting of the spine.
  • Most patients with kyphosis experience mild to severe back pain that may shoot up and down the spine, a tender and stiff spine, fatigue, the rounded back appearance, and in chronic cases, difficulty breathing.

What causes it?

Kyphosis develops when a set of the spine's thoracic (middle back) vertebrae become wedge-shaped. This may be caused by a variety of problems, but primarily occurs because of another spinal condition.

Many patients with osteoporosis may develop kyphosis when their fragile bones incur an osteoporosis fracture. If the fracture eventually crushes the affected vertebrae, it collapses its structure and causes the vertebrae to be wedge-shaped. Osteoporosis is also referred to as arthritis of the spine, and most commonly occurs in women ages 55 years and older and patients who have taken corticosteroids for long periods of time.

Patients with long-term vertebral disc deterioration from degenerative disc disease may also eventually experience kyphosis. The soft discs between vertebrae that act as cushions may degenerate from aging. Over a period of time, the discs' collagen decreases, drying out and shrinking the discs. The shrunken vertebral disc is what may cause the vertebrae to look wedge-shaped. Kyphosis may also develop from spondylolisthesis, or when one vertebra slips on top of another.

Some controllable causes may include: low estrogen levels, history of broken and/or fractured bones, low body weight, low calcium and vitamin D levels, lack of activity, smoking, and low testosterone levels in men.

How do you treat it?

Treating kyphosis lies on treating the osteoporosis fracture or other spinal condition that caused the abnormal curvature of the spine. Doing so incorporates treatment that usually starts from conservative methods, and may later involve surgical procedures.

Some conservative methods of treatment include: proper nutrition and vitamin intake, rest and relaxation, hot and cold compresses, pain medication such as over-the-counter medication and also prescriptions, and osteoporosis medications that may help strengthen the bones.

Physical therapy may then be recommended in conjunction with conservative methods of treatment, and may include strengthening and stability exercises, as well as back bracing. If these conservative methods do not effectively heal the fracture or prevent future fractures from occurring, and/or the fracture gets significantly worse, then surgery is recommended.

Severe kyphosis may be treated with kyphoplasty, which injects bone material into the fracture through a small hole-like incision in the back. If you would like more information, and you feel you may be a candidate for a spinal procedure, please send us your MRI scan here and we will review it for free.