Kyphosis: Overview

What is kyphosis?

Kyphosis comes from the Greek word for "hunchbacked." This condition is characterized by a curvature of the spine that is best seen from the side. In exams, kyphosis is usually noted as a rounding of the upper back that results in poor posture.

There is a normal amount of kyphosis (curvature) found in every spine. Spines that have a kyphotic curve of greater than 50 degrees are considered abnormal.

There are three general categories of kyphosis that appear in children:

  • Postural kyphosis is the most common form, and most people simply refer to it as slouching. It is more common in boys and most prevalent in the adolescent years. The curve in the spine is normally flexible and causes no pain to the child, nor does it cause problems when the child is an adult.
  • Scheuermann’s kyphosis is caused by abnormalities on the growth centers of the vertebrae, where the front part of the spine doesn’t grow as quickly as the back part of the spine, causing the vertebrae to become wedge-shaped. This results in the child having a hunchback appearance. In this type of kyphosis the curve will usually become noticeable in the teen years and will worsen as the patient ages. Some children may have pain with this type of kyphosis near the worst part of the curve.
  • Congenital kyphosis develops while a child is in utero. During fetal development, the bones of the spine may not form normally or some of the bones in the spine may be fused together. The child’s curve may worsen as he or she ages and may require surgery.

Who gets kyphosis?

Kyphosis is generally more common in boys. Some children can develop kyphosis in the womb (called congenital kyphosis), however most cases develop during adolescence.

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