The spine is naturally curved. It does not assume a straight line for important reasons. The normal curve of the spine makes sure that your posture and balance is good. This way, it can support your body better. However, there are times when the spine becomes too curved. This condition is normally referred to as kyphosis. This can be harmful to your health because it can lead to breathing difficulties.
Kyphosis is also known by other names such as hunchback, Scheuermann's disease, postural kyphosis, etc. it often results in loss of height and interferes with breathing.
Types of Kyphosis (Curved Thoracic Spine)
There are three types of kyphosis: Postural, Scheuermann’s, and congenital kyphosis.
- Postural Kyphosis: This is the most common form of kyphosis, and is caused by poor posture. Postural kyphosis usually occurs in adolescents, and presents itself in girls more than boys. In most cases, this type of kyphosis can be corrected with physical therapy and exercise, and doesn’t require any medical treatment.
- Scheuermann’s Kyphosis: This type of kyphosis also starts in adolescence and is caused by a “wedging” of the vertebrae which can contribute to the development of scoliosis. X-rays are required to identify this type, but doctors aren’t sure why it occurs.
- Congenital Kyphosis: This is the rarest form of kyphosis. Congenital kyphosis (found at birth) is caused by abnormal development of the vertebrae before birth, and can cause vertebrae to fuse together. Surgery is usually recommended when kyphosis affects an infant, and can help treat the disorder before it worsens.
What are the causes of Kyphosis (Curved Thoracic Spine)?
Since kyphosis of spine is of different types, the causes vary:
- Postural kyphosis is more common in girls and may be caused due to a poor posture and slouching.
- Scheuermann's kyphosis is more common in boys and becomes apparent between ages 10 - 15. What causes it is not been known yet. However, it is for certain that this condition has a tendency to run in families.
- Congenital kyphosis may occur during foetal development. This type of kyphosis is known to worsen as the affected child grows to become an adult. One severe and possible complication which might result from this condition is paralysis of the lower half of the body. In adults, the same condition may be caused by osteoporosis, cancer or benign tumours on spine bones, spina bifida, tuberculosis, Marfan syndrome or other connective tissue disorders, ankylosing spondylitis and conditions that cause paralysis.
If kyphosis is of a mild nature, then there are as such no noticeable symptoms. But severe cases are indicated by the affected person developing a slouching posture or a hunch back. The patient may begin to feel his spine becoming stiff or undergoing tenderness. Additionally, the patient may also suffer from back pain which can be mild or severe and he may suffer from back pain with movement. A forward posture of the head is also a symptom of kyphosis and so is a difference in shoulder height. Other than these, chest pain, tight hamstrings, breathing difficulty and fatigue are the symptoms which can accompany the condition of a rounded back. However, in some people, the neck (cervical spine) may also develop a kyphotic curve, i.e., an outward curve. So in this case, the symptoms might include limited neck movements, neck pain, weakness in arms or legs, difficulty walking, loss of grip strength, low bowel control and paralysis. As a whole, the symptoms will be similar in both the cases of kyphosis.
Braces: A brace is normally suggested for teenagers, who are still growing and are suffering from moderate to serious kyphosis. The brace, when worn regularly and as prescribed, slows down or prevents further progression of the condition. It may also correct the curvature to some extent. Patients, who wear braces, need to avoid certain things like, playing any rigorous sport and doing strenuous physical work. In some cases, adults may also be prescribed braces. The goal of braces is to reduce the intensity of pain.
Medications: Pain is one of the common symptoms of kyphosis. The doctor may prescribe pain killers in accordance with the intensity of pain that you experience. Generally, doctors start with over-the-counter (OTC) pain killers, like, acetaminophen and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). If OTC pain killers fail to provide relief, your doctor will give you stronger medications to ease your condition. In case, tumour is the reason behind the condition, a medical practitioner may prescribe chemotherapy drugs as well.
Exercises: There are certain exercises that are designed specifically to relieve symptoms of kyphosis. If your doctor feels the need of such exercises for postural or cervical kyphosis cure, he may refer you to a physical therapy professional. You need to perform the exercises properly and as directed by the physical therapist. Be very careful with the number of repetitions for each exercise. To be on the safer side, perform them under the supervision of an expert.
Surgery: Surgery is considered to be an option for treatment when the condition is congenital, caused by a cancerous growth, causes sharp pain, and involves some neurological or extreme deformities, which cannot be cured with non-surgical methods like, bracing and physiotherapy. Surgery always involves fusion and attachment of instruments to the spine. The new arrangement stabilizes the spine by correcting the deformity. The surgery, usually, leaves no chance of recurrence of the condition. The fusion done during surgery, generally, employs a piece of the pelvic bone to connect two vertebrae together. It prevents the curvature from progressing.
In addition to prescriptions and recommendations of your doctor, you should take care of your diet. Follow a healthy diet, which will strengthen your natural ability to recuperate fast, and thus, will help you get well soon.