Kyphosis

Hyperkyphosis is a curvature of the spine that occurs in the upper back, resulting in a hunched or stooped appearance. This condition is most commonly seen in older people, but it can affect people of all ages.

A kyphotic spinal curve can develop for a number of different reasons, and some forms of this condition are more preventable than others. Today, we'd like to take a look at some of the most common causes of hyperkyphosis and who they're most likely to affect.

Common causes of hyperkyphosis

  • Bad Posture - If you persistently slouch forward or lean back when seated, you may notice that your spine starts to develop a visible curvature over time. Desk workers are particularly prone to the sort of postural problems that can lead to hyperkyphosis.

  • Scheuermann's Disease - Scheuermann's disease typically occurs during the growth spurt that accompanies puberty. If you have this condition, it means that your vertebrae (the bones that make up your spine) develop into a wedge shape, creating a forward spinal curve. Click here to read more about Scheuermann's disease.

  • Congenital Issues - While rare, it is sometimes the case that a baby's spine will develop incorrectly in the womb, and this can mean that hyperkyphosis is visible from birth.

  • Osteoporosis & Osteopenia - Human beings - especially women - commonly lose bone density as they get older, a condition known as osteoporosis (or osteopenia in its milder form). The resulting bone weakness can lead to a range of different problems, including curvature of the spine. Click here to read more about osteoporosis.

  • Spinal Injury - Certain accidents and injuries can impact the spine, resulting in hyperkyphosis in some cases.

If you or a loved one suffer from hyperkyphosis, effective non-surgical treatment is available from the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London. Click here to view before/after photos of our hyperkyphosis patients, or contact us now to arrange an initial consultation.

Further Reading: How to Prevent Hyperkyphosis

How Does Hyperkyphosis Affect the Body?

A person with hyperkyphosis can often be recognised by their visibly hunched back. This happens because the spine itself has curved forward for some reason - usually as a result of prolonged poor posture, ageing, fractures, or a condition like Scheuermann's disease.

However, this 'hunchback' appearance is just one of many ways in which hyperkyphosis can affect one's body. The condition's less outwardly visible symptoms include:

  • Back pain
  • Stiffness and discomfort
  • Reduced mobility/flexibility
  • Fatigue
  • Poor body image

But that's not all. A severe kyphotic spinal curve can even interfere with the body's most fundamental inner workings, such as the respiratory and digestive systems. Today, we're going to address three key questions about hyperkyphosis and its impact on the body - read on to find out more, or click here to read about treatment options for individuals with hyperkyphosis.

How does hyperkyphosis affect breathing?

If hyperkyphosis is not treated and the spinal curve continues to get worse over time, there is a risk that it may eventually begin to adversely affect the patient's ability to breathe. This happens because especially severe spinal deformities inevitably end up warping other parts of the skeleton, including the rib cage; this leaves the lungs with less room to inflate, resulting in compromised breathing.

How does hyperkyphosis affect the digestive system?

Severe hyperkyphosis can also impact on the patient's ability to digest food normally. Again, this is due to the knock-on effect that a pronounced spinal curve can have on other parts of the body. In the case of the digestive system, problems may arise because the patient's internal organs are being squashed together, potentially obstructing the passage of food through the intestines. Acid reflux is also fairly common among people with advanced hyperkyphosis.

How does hyperkyphosis affect the nervous system?

In some cases, the distortion of the body due to hyperkyphosis can end up impinging on a nerve. Depending on where in the body this happens, nerve compression can lead to:

  • Persistant aches/pains
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Certain body parts feeling weak
  • Loss of bladder/bowel control

The good news is that all of these consequences are relatively rare and do not arise in the majority of mild to moderate cases of hyperkyphosis. However, if your condition is getting worse (i.e. your spinal curve is getting more and more pronounced), it is very important to seek treatment sooner rather than later to halt the progression of the curve and minimise the impact of your condition on your body.

Learn about hyperkyphosis treatment methods here, or contact us to arrange a hyperkyphosis consultation at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic.

Hyperkyphosis is a spinal disorder which refers to the excessive forward curvature of the upper back. Hyperkyphosis is usually diagnosed once the curvature reaches over 50 degrees; prior to that, it is just known as kyphosis and does not typically require treatment.

What is a hyperkyphosis brace? 

A hyperkyphosis brace is a form of treatment to rectify a spinal curvature in adolescents. These braces are not usually recommended for adults as the spine stops growing once adulthood is reached and it would not provide any benefits. The brace is used to help straighten the spine and help strengthen the back. A hyperkyphosis brace usually straightens the spine, pulls the shoulders back and allows the chin to sit upright.

Kyphosis Brace

The hyperkyphosis brace also takes the pressure off the spine and encourages it to grow in a more upright position. Every spine typically has a slight amount of curvature, but as hyperkyphosis can cause health issues bracing is required to avoid these further complications.

When is a hyperkyphosis brace needed? 

Once the degree of the curvature surpasses 50 degrees a Hyperkyphosis brace may be needed. Hyperkyphosis can occur at any age and can even occur before birth. This is known as congenital kyphosis and means several vertebra fuse together or the spinal bones do not form properly. In this case, treatment such as using a hyperkyphosis brace is needed from a very young age.

Scheuermann’s and bad posture are also causes of this condition. If these forms of hyperkyphosis develop before adulthood, hyperkyphosis braces can be used to stunt the progression of the spinal curve.

How long do you have to wear a hyperkyphosis brace?

Depending on the severity of the case, you may be required to wear a hyperkyphosis brace for the most part of every day. If worn from a young age, it may be possible to stop wearing the brace once your spine has stopped growing. This is typically around the age of 16-18 for girls and 18-20 for boys.

If the curvature is mild, a hyperkyphosis brace may need to be worn for less time but this should be discussed with your doctor beforehand.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we help patients with all different types of spinal disorders, from scoliosis to hyperkyphosis. Our treatment course provides patients with a non-surgical alternative and allows the spine to improve through physical therapy. You can take a look at the results of our ScolioGold course here.

If you’re interested in a non-surgical alternative for your hyperkyphosis, you can book an initial consultation with us today. We look forward to hearing from you.

Hyperkyphosis Treatment

Whereas scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine, hyperkyphosis is the medical term for an excessive forward spinal curve. This causes the top of the back to become more rounded than usual - you might know this condition as 'dowager's hump' or simply a 'hunchback'.

Hyperkyphosis can develop due to bad posture (postural kyphosis), as the result of another underlying condition (such as Scheuermann’s disease), or because of spinal fractures. Hyperkyphosis is considered severe if the curve angle exceeds 45 degrees, but even mild cases can cause back pain, stiffness, fatigue, and a number of other symptoms. As with scoliosis, there are a number of different hyperkyphosis treatment methods in use, including both surgical and non-surgical options.

Non-surgical hyperkyphosis treatments

Bracing

During adolescence, bracing may be required to stunt the progression of the hyperkyphosis in moderate to severe cases. Bracing aims to ensure that the degree of the curvature does not develop any further than it already has. The patient may be required to continue wearing the brace until their spine stops growing at around 16 years of age.

Pain management

As is the case for many health problems, pain management is often a central part of hyperkyphosis treatment. Painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol can help to relieve the aches and pains that derive from having a curvature of the spine. If the patient is in a lot of pain, stronger pain relief medications may be prescribed.

Physical therapy

Though it does require some work on the patient’s part, physiotherapy is a great way to treat hyperkyphosis. Physical therapy courses such as our own ScolioGold method can straighten the back, reduce pain, and improve the patient's quality of life in general - see before and after photos here.

Surgical hyperkyphosis treatment

If the curvature becomes so severe that the patient is having difficulty going about their day, surgical methods of hyperkyphosis treatment become available. Hyperkyphosis surgery corrects the appearance of the curvature, but there is also a small risk that it will lead to further complications such as infection, nerve damage or even - in a tiny minority of cases - paralysis.

Spinal fusion is the standard surgical procedure for hyperkyphosis. This involves fusing the vertebrae together to correct the spine's curvature. Method rods, screws, hooks and bone grafts are used during the operation to fuse the bones together. According to the NHS, the operation takes 4-8 hours, and a back brace may need to be worn for up to 9 months while your spine heals.

Here at Scoliosis SOS, we provide non-surgical physiotherapy courses for those suffering from scoliosis and hyperkyphosis. If this sounds like something that could help you improve your condition, please don't hesitate to get in touch today.

Hyperkyphosis is a spinal condition that causes the upper back to curve forwards. Although some instances of the condition only appear visually (the rounding of the upper back), the condition can lead to a range of secondary issues for the sufferer, including back pain and fatigue.

Due to the fact that postural issues are commonly linked with hyperkyphosis, many people who are concerned about their own spinal health or that of a loved one will be keen to search for prevention methods that will combat this forward curvature.

When looking into how to prevent hyperkyphosis, it is important to keep in mind that not all forms of hyperkyphosis are the same! Like other forms of spinal curvature, hyperkyphosis doesn't have one single cause, with the condition developing for a number of reasons (some of which are preventable).

What different types of hyperkyphosis exist (and are they preventable?)

  • Scheuermann's kyphosis - This condition is caused by abnormally shaped vertebrae that fail to develop and slip out of position. Although the reasons behind the disruption are not fully understood, it is true that this condition cannot be prevented with lifestyle changes. There are, however, methods for successfully improving the impact of the condition, as is manifested by Axel's experience after seeking non-surgical treatment for his condition.
  • Congential kyphosis - Again, this is a non-preventable form of kyphosis, due to the fact that it emerges due to abnormal development of the spine whilst in the womb.
  • Postural kyphosis - Postural kyphosis develops as a result of poor posture, which means that it can be prevented by avoiding damaging behaviours and maintaining good posture.
  • Kyphosis as a result of osteoporosis (pictured below) - Hyperkyphosis can also be caused by bone degeneration, which is why it is often seen in those who are older, as well as those who have suffered repeated impact to the spine. Healthy bones can prevent this degeneration, which can be achieved by observing a healthy diet and performing weight-bearing exercises.

Hyperkyphosis over time

Advice on how to prevent hyperkyphosis:

  • Avoid rounding your shoulders and make an effort to observe your posture when sitting, walking or standing.

  • Perform exercises which increase bone mass - rebounding on a trampoline is very effective for this, and is even used by astronauts preparing for space travel.

  • Eat a diet rich in Calcium and Vitamin D, such as spinach, fatty fish and fortified foods.

  • Perform exercises to improve your posture at home, especially if you work in a job that requires you to sit for long periods of time or lift heavy objects. Here are few moves to try, without the need for specialised equipment.

  • Seek physical therapy from a qualified professional who will be able to identify the cause of your poor posture, and tailor their treatment method accordingly.

Here at Scoliosis SOS, we have treated a number of patients with hyperkyphosis and other postural issues, using our combination of non-surgical treatment methods to address all aspects of their condition. 

To find out more or to arrange a consultation, simply get in touch with us today!

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