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
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.
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.
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.