Hyperkyphosis

Hyperkyphosis (often just called kyphosis) is a curvature of the spine that occurs in the upper back, resulting in a hunched or stooped appearance.

It affects approximately 8% of the general population, and while it is most common in older people, it can affect men and women of all ages.

Watch our video to learn everything you need to know about hyperkyphosis:

Kyphosis is sometimes known as 'dowager's hump', particularly if the patient is getting on in years. 'Hunchback' is a somewhat derogatory term for a person with kyphosis.

 

Hyperkyphosis vs Scoliosis: What's the Difference?

Hyperkyphosis and scoliosis are two different curvatures of the spine.

We treat both conditions here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, and they can occur together (see kyphoscoliosis). But they're not the same thing.

Kyphosis vs scoliosis

The difference lies in the direction of the curvature:

  • Hyperkyphosis: Causes the upper* region of the spine to curve forwards, making the patient's upper back look unusually rounded or hunched.

  • Scoliosis: Causes the spine to curve sideways, forming a 'C' or 'S' shape.

*Excessive forward curvature of the lower spine is known as hyperlordosis. Read our Curvatures of the Spine guide for more information.

 

How Does Hyperkyphosis Affect the Body?

Kyphosis patients can usually be recognised by their visibly hunched backs, but this is just one of the many ways in which hyperkyphosis can affect one's body.

Kyphosis patients

Other symptoms of kyphosis 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.

> 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:

  • Persistent 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.

 

What Causes Hyperkyphosis?

Kyphosis can develop for a number of different reasons, and some forms of this condition are more preventable than others.

Here are some of the most common causes of hyperkyphosis (and who they're most likely to affect):

  • 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. Learn more about Scheuermann's disease here.

  • 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 present from birth. This is called congenital kyphosis, and when it does occur, it usually begins within the first 6-8 weeks of embyronic development.

  • Osteoporosis - Human beings (especially women) often lose bone density as they get older, a condition known as osteoporosis. The resulting bone weakness can lead to a range of different problems, including curvature of the spine. Learn more about osteoporosis here.

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

 

How to Prevent Hyperkyphosis

While hyperkyphosis can be treated, it is often impossible to prevent it from developing altogether.

Scheuermann's kyphosis and congenital kyphosis cannot be prevented with lifestyle changes. Good posture will reduce your risk of developing postural kyphosis, and a healthy diet and weight-bearing exercises can help to prevent kyphosis from developing as a result of osteoporosis.

If you want to prevent hyperkyphosis, here's what we recommend:

  • 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 some exercises to get you started.

  • Seek physical therapy from a qualified professional who will be able to identify the cause of your poor posture.

 

Hyperkyphosis Treatment

As with scoliosis, there are a number of different hyperkyphosis treatment methods in use, including both surgical and non-surgical options.

Congenital Kyphosis Treatment

The most prevalent treatment methods are:

  • Bracing - During adolescence, bracing may be required to stunt the progression of the patient's kyphosis 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. Learn more about how a hyperkyphosis brace works here.

  • 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 programmes 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.

  • Surgery - If the curvature becomes so severe that the patient is having difficulty going about their day, surgery may be recommended. 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. The operation takes 4-8 hours, and a back brace may need to be worn for up to 9 months while your spine heals.

 

Matthew from Exeter: A Kyphosis Case Study

Matthew Ellison came to the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in 2018. Our treatment course helped to reduce his back pain, and he actually grew by 3.8cm during his time here!

Read Matthew's story in full here. Matthew is just one of the many hyperkyphosis patients we've helped - if you'd like to find out more about our physical therapy courses, please give us a call on 0207 488 4428.

Learn Some Hyperkyphosis Exercises   Book Your Initial Consultation

Osteogenesis imperfecta

The phrase osteogenesis imperfecta may look like a mouthful, but there's a chance you may be familiar with this condition under a different name.

Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) is commonly known as brittle bone disease: a genetic condition that prevents adequate production of collagen, resulting in under-developed bones that are naturally more susceptible to fractures.

According to the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation, osteoporosis is an almost universal consequence of this (learn about osteoporosis here). Sadly, it's not the only possible consequence that people with OI sometimes have to deal with.

 

The relationship between osteogenesis imperfecta and scoliosis

While the likelihood of being diagnosed with both osteogenesis imperfecta and scoliosis is extremely rare (0.1 in a million), it's far from an impossibility. In fact, many within the medical community theorise that there is a relationship between the two conditions.

It's believed by some medical professionals that OI can actively contribute to the development of scoliosis. As such, the chances of developing scoliosis are, in theory, likely to increase marginally if you already have OI.

 

Scientific studies on OI and scoliosis

Findings presented by James J. McCarthy at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons' 74th Annual Meeting in 2007 appeared to confirm this theory. The study focused on childhood OI in particular, and was carried out retroactively.

Of the 288 osteogenesis imperfecta patients studied, 83 were later diagnosed with scoliosis. This represented a 28.8% incidence of scoliosis in existing OI sufferers. What's more, those who underwent corrective surgery for their scoliosis had a high rate of complication.

Meanwhile, a further study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in 2017 noted that, while scoliosis is rarely discovered in OI patients under six years old, it can progress rapidly thereafter.

The journal went on to note that the most common type of scoliosis curve found in OI sufferers was a single thoracic curve (present in 97% of scoliosis patients with type I OI). Meanwhile, 58% of scoliosis patients with type III OI had curves in the thoracic region.

Healthy bone vs brittle bone

Treating scoliosis patients with osteogenesis imperfecta

Due to the fragility of OI patients' bones, scoliosis treatment can be tricky. Manoeuvrability may be limited, and stress placed on the bones could prove to be dangerous.

What's more, younger patients may also exhibit confidence issues and lack of trust in treatment providers, particularly if they have suffered multiple bone fractures in the past.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, our aim is to provide safe and effective non-surgical treatment for people with scoliosis. For those who also suffer from osteogenesis imperfecta, our ScolioGold programme is a fantastic way of treating the symptoms of scoliosis without aggravating the symptoms of OI.

From muscular imbalance and trunk rotation to breathing and posture improvement, our specialist treatment courses (led by trained professionals) can be truly life-changing for those who have both OI and scoliosis. The treatment can even be modified to involve fun, interactive exercises for younger patients.

Treatment Course Information   Book an Initial Consultation

Scoliosis Explained Infographic

The World Wide Web makes it relatively easy to find factual information about scoliosis, its symptoms, and the available treatment options. But fictional tales about people with scoliosis are a little harder to find.

Today (11 June) is Empathy Day, and with the accompanying #ReadForEmpathy campaign, the organisers are hoping to highlight the power of stories to help us understand each other's lived experiences. In that spirit, then, here's our all-ages guide to stories about scoliosis and what it's like to live with a curved spine:

 

Scoliosis Books for Children

Ideal for younger readers, these books can be a great aid for parents who are looking to help their young children understand scoliosis and the effects it can have on one's body. Better still, they also help to highlight the fact that a scoliosis diagnosis isn’t the end of the world, and that courage and perseverance can help to overcome even the biggest obstacles.

Being Grace Scoliosis Story

Being Grace by June Hyjek

Ideal for educating young children about the ins and outs of scoliosis, Being Grace follows the story of a Grace, a young giraffe who has a curved neck.

As in the Christmas story of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, Grace the Giraffe is singled out and ridiculed for being different. Despite this, Grace's crooked neck allows her to do things the other giraffes can't.

Grace ultimately learns to be happy in her own skin, accept her differences, and appreciate the way they make her unique. The author June Hyjek has scoliosis herself, adding authenticity to the story and its message.

View on Goodreads >>

 

The Bravest Thing

The Bravest Thing by Donna Jo Napoli

The Bravest Thing centres around pet-loving 10-year-old Laurel and her pet rabbit. When the rabbit has babies, the rabbit's unwillingness to feed her offspring leaves Laurel (who has scoliosis) to take the lead and keep them healthy herself.

The book focuses on optimism in the face of adversity, providing a good introduction to the effects of scoliosis for children.

View on Goodreads >>

 

S on My Back scoliosis book

There's an S on My Back by Mary Mahony

Mary Mahony’s 1999 book There's an S on My Back is a great way to educate pre-adolescent readers about the implications of scoliosis while also reinforcing hope, instilling courage, and dispelling anxiety.

Written as a first-person narrative from the perspective of lead character Maisey MacGuire, There's an S... provides children with an enlightening insight into scoliosis, from diagnosis to treatment, including brace fitting and the social situations around it.

View on Goodreads >>

 

Scoliosis Books for Older Kids & Teens

For older children who have just entered their teenage years (or soon will), the following books provide a more mature analysis of scoliosis while still effectively maintaining engagement in younger readers. Centred around early adolescent characters, these books are a great way to improve a child's knowledge of scoliosis while still capturing their imagination.

Abby's Twin

Abby's Twin by Ann M. Martin

Part of the Baby-Sitters Club series, Abby's Twin tells the story of twin sisters Abby and Anna. Anna is diagnosed with scoliosis after a routine school screening, and the twins are left to come to grips with the revelation in their own way, with Abby's excessive attempts to comfort her sister ultimately leading to a falling out.

Bridging the gap between children's literature and teen reading, Abby's Twin is a good introduction to scoliosis for young teens and pre-adolescents, highlighting the importance of communication and family.

View on Goodreads >>

 

Braced scoliosis book

Braced by Alyson Gerber

Braced is the debut novel from Alyson Gerber (who has scoliosis herself). It tells the tale of Rachel Brooks, a 7th-grade student with a place on the school soccer team, a crush on a boy named Tate, and a great year ahead of her...until she's told that she has to wear a scoliosis brace for 23 hours a day.

Told from an authentic and honest perspective, this heartfelt story recounts the trials and tribulations of a maturing teen coping with scoliosis, with great underlying messages of compassion and triumph over adversity.

Published in 2017, Braced came as a welcome modern addition to the realm of scoliosis fiction, and it has been repeatedly praised online as a great read for teens and young adults alike.

View on Goodreads >>

 

Dear Isaac Newton Book

Dear Isaac Newton, You're Ruining My Life by Rachel Hruza

Another recent publication to add to the growing list of scoliosis novels, Dear Isaac Newton... was originally published in early 2018 and follows the story of Truth Trendon, a 12-year-old with scoliosis.

The main protagonist in this scoliosis story aims to keep her scoliosis a secret from her classmates. Of course, the lies soon start to snowball, and disaster looms...

Touching and quick-witted, this book is full of adolescent angst and important life lessons, with the scoliosis theme prevalent throughout. Another great read for early teens.

View on Goodreads >>

 

Straight Talk with the Curvy Girls

Straight Talk with the Curvy Girls by Theresa E. Mulvaney and Robin Stoltz

Billed as 'a journey into the trials, tribulations and triumphs of child and adolescent scoliosis', Straight Talk features contributions from a number of young people with scoliosis (and their parents). Most of the other books on our list are fictional, but if you're looking for real-life tales of what it's like to grow up with scoliosis, this one is a must-read.

You can order a copy of Straight Talk with the Curvy Girls from straighttalkscoliosis.com. We'd also strongly recommend reading our interviews with Curvy Girls founder Leah Stoltz and vice president Rachel Mulvaney, both of whom have been living with scoliosis since childhood.

View on Goodreads >

 

Young Adult Books About Scoliosis

These books focus on a variety of themes and plotlines, and while they are predominantly aimed at young adults, they are just as suitable for those that fall outside of that category, providing a good literary experience for adults too - particularly those with an interest in scoliosis.

Deenie

Deenie by Judy Blume

Perhaps the most famous book on this list, Deenie is considered somewhat of a cult classic, achieving both critical acclaim and controversy.

First published back in 1973, Deenie has seen its fair share of controversy, primarily due to its sexual references. As a result, Deenie has been banned in countless schools, even landing on the American Library Association's list of the '100 Most Frequently-Challenged Books' in the 1990s.

However, this was nothing new for author Judy Blume, who has had numerous other books on the same list over the years. And none of this has impacted the book's popularity; Deenie is still held in high regard and frequently cited as a 'coming of age' classic, and it's a great scoliosis story to boot.

View on Goodreads >>

 

Mannequin Girl

Mannequin Girl by Ellen Litman

The second novel from Ellen Litman, Mannequin Girl is another coming-of-age story, but this one is set in 1980s Moscow.

The action - which takes place within a boarding school that's specifically for children with scoliosis - centres around lead character Kat, who enters first grade at the age of six as the book begins. We then see Kat's experiences over the eight years that follow.

Themes of identity, independence and rebellion emerge; Litman herself grew up in Moscow, allowing her to draw upon her real-life experiences for a narrative that's authentic, engaging and heartfelt despite being written in third person.

View on Goodreads >>

 

Heaven Sent book

Heaven Sent by S.J. Morgan

The most recent entry on this list, Heaven Sent is the debut novel of British ex-pat S.J. Morgan. A trained occupational therapist, Morgan has real knowledge of scoliosis, and she uses this knowledge to great effect throughout Heaven Sent.

Another coming-of-age novel, relationships are the key theme here, with particular focus on friendship, family and love. The well-developed characters and thought-provoking narrative make Heaven Sent a solid read that's even more appealing to those with firsthand experience of scoliosis.

View on Goodreads >>

Scoliosis SOS is a specialist clinic in London, UK for people with scoliosis and other spinal conditions. Learn more about us here, and if you'd like to arrange a consultation, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

X-rays of people with scoliosis

As you may already be aware, June is Scoliosis Awareness Month (culminating in International Scoliosis Awareness Day on Saturday 29 June).

If you're looking to help fly the scoliosis flag this month, there are lots of ways to help raise awareness - here are just a few ideas to get your cogs turning:

 

1. Social Media

It's no secret that social media is an incredibly powerful tool. This applies just as much to your personal social media accounts as it does to those owned by businesses, brands and celebrities.

If you want to get the word out to your friends, followers and family members, a simple Facebook update, tweet or Instagram post can go a surprisingly long way. Including a 'please share' request within your post will encourage people to spread the word to their own social spheres.

 

2. Flyers

If you're not big on social media, offline methods can work too. Printed flyers can be extremely impactful when it comes to informing and educating your community.

Producing flyers can be surprisingly economical, too - particularly if you shop around. Once you've got a stack of flyers ready, distribution can be as simple as standing in the centre of town and handing them out. You may also be able to place your flyers in local cafés, shops and other locations (but be sure to ask permission first).

 

3. Viral Challenges

Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? It was a sensation back in 2014: countless people, including a number of politicians and celebrities, shared videos of themselves getting soaked in order to raise awareness and funds for motor neurone disease charities across the globe.

We're not suggesting that you subject yourself to a bucket of ice-cold water, but you could definitely look to the viral success of the Ice Bucket Challenge for inspiration. Why not think of your own unique challenge, give it a catchy name, and get filming? Then post the video online, challenge three of your friends, and see where it leads!

 

4. Posters

A memorable, well-designed poster can be a great way to get a point across. If you're not much of a designer yourself, it's well worth paying a professional to put something together for you - posters work best when they're really eye-catching!

Strategic placement is important to make sure your poster is seen. Ask you family and friends to help you get your posters in densely-populated, high-footfall areas like busy streets, community centres, and places of business.

 

5. Speeches

If you're a confident public speaker, Scoliosis Awareness Month is a great time to put that talent to use. Giving a talk at - for example - a local school is a superb way to get the message out to people who might not otherwise have heard it. This is especially true if you yourself have scoliosis and can comment on what it's like to live with a curved spine.

If appropriate, you could even follow up your speech with a collection bucket to make the most of your platform and raise funds for a scoliosis charity of your choosing.

 

6. Merchandise

Pens, badges, hats, T-shirts...branded merchandise is a great way to promote a cause, and if you can afford it, you may want to consider using customised merch to raise awareness of scoliosis.

You could give your merchandise away for free as a promotional exercise, or sell it to raise funds for a worthy charity - either way, don't be afraid to get creative!

 

7. School / Work

Whether you're in school, university, or the world of work, getting your classmates / colleagues involved in your quest to boost scoliosis awareness will help you to cover a lot more ground.

Here's the golden rule: the simpler the task, the more likely people are to participate. Try to keep your requests nice and straightforward - for instance, you could encourage everyone to wear green for scoliosis, or change their email signature in recognition of Scoliosis Awareness Month. If you're feeling ambitious, you could even organise a bake sale and donate the proceeds to a scoliosis charity.

 

8. Local News

Even in this ultra-connected era, lots of people still read the local paper - or indeed the local paper's website.

Journalists are always looking for ideas, and they love local interest stories that focus on real people and the challenges they face. If you have struggled with scoliosis and achieved something special, now is the perfect time to celebrate it. In a world that can sometimes feel like it's bursting with bad news, a slice of positivity should be an easy sell that your local journos welcome with open arms.

More on Scoliosis Awareness Month   About Scoliosis SOS