Kyphosis is often mentioned in conjunction with scoliosis; however, it’s a distinctive postural presentation with its own characteristics. This contrast means a separate approach is required for both assessment and management. A healthcare professional needs to carry out a specific set of diagnostic measurements and treatments to address kyphosis-related issues.

In this blog, we’ll dive deep into the details of kyphosis, the main types of presentations that cause issues, and commonly associated symptoms. We’ll also include information about how to differentiate it from other spinal conditions.

If you suffer from any symptoms of spinal conditions, it’s important to understand the key differences and how best to treat specific health issues. Let’s start exploring kyphosis.

 

What Is Kyphosis?

Kyphosis is a medical term referring to the natural curvature of the spine observed as a rounded shape, particularly in the upper back (thoracic region), when viewed from the side.

This natural curvature plays a critical role in allowing the body to absorb the forces of gravity. In contrast, lordosis describes the spine’s natural inward curve, usually found in the lower back (lumbar region).

A healthy spine exhibits both kyphotic and lordotic curvatures to some degree.

While kyphosis itself is a regular aspect of spinal anatomy, complications can arise if the curvature becomes excessively pronounced (hyperkyphosis) or insufficiently curved (hypokyphosis). 

In this blog, we’ll focus on hyperkyphosis.

what is kyphosis

Hyperkyphosis Details

Now you know the spine has a slight natural curve; however, hyperkyphosis is characterized by an excessive curvature that can affect a person’s ability to sit, stand, and perform activities.

Hyperkyphosis can affect people of any age for various reasons, ranging from degenerative diseases to poor posture. Furthermore, the severity of hyperkyphosis varies widely. Understanding hyperkyphosis begins with recognizing its types, each with unique causes and implications.

understanding hyperkyphosis

Kyphosis and lordosis-related issues refer to the alignment of the spine when viewed from the side

 

3 Variants of Hyperkyphosis Manifestation 

Postural Hyperkyphosis

The most common form of this spinal condition is postural hyperkyphosis. It emerges from poor posture and slouching. Over time, these cause changes in muscle length and tension, creating symptoms such as neck, back, and shoulder pain. 

Postural hyperkyphosis is often seen in adolescents and young adults, manifesting as a mild, rounded appearance of the back without any structural changes to the spine.

Structural Hyperkyphosis

Structural hyperkyphosis causes an exaggerated curve in the upper spine region similar to postural hyperkyphosis; however, these two types of hyperkyphosis differ in their underlying causes.

People suffering from structural hyperkyphosis experience physical changes to their spine’s vertebrae, leading to vertebral wedging and pronounced rounding. On the other hand, postural hyperkyphosis is caused by muscular imbalances, rather than the bones themselves. 

Despite these differences, both types of hyperkyphosis can lead to similar symptoms: neck, back, and shoulder pain. This is due to the strain placed on a person’s musculoskeletal system as it attempts to compensate for the increase in spinal rounding spinal curvature.

Scheuermann’s Kyphosis

Scheuermann’s Kyphosis is a specific presentation of structural hyperkyphosis. This condition is characterized by three or more adjacent vertebrae becoming wedge-shaped from the side view. The vertebrae become shaped more like a trapezoid instead of the natural rectangular shape, leading to a sharper, more pronounced curve. 

This presentation of hyperkyphosis typically develops during the growth spurt before puberty.

In most cases, the wedged vertebrae have small indents at the bottom and top where the spinal discs press into the bone. If these spots are present on X-ray views, then they’re referred to as Schmorl’s nodes. The combination of the adjacent wedged vertebrae and Schmorl’s nodes is what most refer to as Scheuermann’s disease.  

 

Symptoms and Causes of Kyphosis

What are Hyperkyphosis Symptoms?

While symptoms vary for each patient based on factors like the severity, age, and activity level, there are some prominent symptoms of kyphosis that you can watch out for:

  • Rounded shoulders
  • Pronounced rounding of the upper back
  • Tight hamstrings
  • Pain or stiffness in your back or shoulder areas
  • Weaker, tingling or numb legs
  • Balance issues

Experiencing any of the following symptoms? Book a consultation with our skilled team.

scoliosis consultation

What Causes Hyperkyphosis?

There are many different causes of hyperkyphosis, primarily dependent on the severity and presentation of hyperkyphosis a person suffers from. The causes could include postural imbalances, structural abnormalities of the spinal bones, atypical bone growth, previous spinal injury, and a person’s age. 

 

Comparing Kyphosis

Kyphosis vs. Scoliosis

Both kyphosis and scoliosis are medical terms referring to a spine’s condition. That said, kyphosis refers to the natural forward curvature of the spine, while scoliosis involves an unnatural side-to-side curvature. 

As you now know, hyperkyphosis is when issues arise and it’s quite different from scoliosis as well. Scoliosis can occur at any part of the spine and often presents as a “C” or “S” shape, differing significantly in appearance and implications from the unnatural forward-rounded posture of hyperkyphosis.

We often come across people asking whether kyphosis can turn into scoliosis, or vice versa. These two conditions both impact your spine, but are two separate health issues and can impact someone simultaneously. That said, one condition cannot cause the other. 

Since people can experience both conditions concurrently and this mix of presentations is unique to each person, receiving individualized treatment is essential. In seeking a healthcare professional, it’s vital that they consider the spine’s three-dimensional characteristics. A holistic approach ensures a more accurate assessment and effective management of spinal conditions.

Talk to us about improving your spine’s structure and function.

scoliosis analysis

Kyphosis vs. Lordosis

As we mentioned before, lordosis is another medical term for the natural curve of the spine, but in the lower back region. Similarly to kyphosis, lordosis is necessary for a healthy spine. Individuals start to experience challenges when they suffer from hyperlordosis or hypolordosis.

Unlike hyperkyphosis, which rounds the upper spine forward unnaturally, hyperlordosis accentuates the spine’s curve at the lower back, leading to a swayback appearance. Both conditions can cause discomfort and mobility issues but stem from different abnormalities in spinal alignment.

 

Treating Hyper- Or Hypo- Kyphosis 

Like scoliosis, lordosis or kyphosis related issues can be treated in several ways. The options available will vary based on a person’s symptoms and severity of the condition.

The standard treatments are quite similar to those of scoliosis:

  • Physical therapy can help strengthen the back and abdomen muscles, helping to alleviate discomfort and enhance posture.
  • Pain relief medication like anti-inflammatory drugs can ease back pain or discomfort.
  • A support back brace for some cases, especially in growing children with Scheuermann’s kyphosis, may help the condition.
  • Corrective surgery to diminish the unnatural spinal curve

Learn about the physical therapy treatment we provide for scoliosis patients.

physical therapy session

Treat Your Spinal Condition

Kyphosis, with its various forms and complexities, stands as a unique condition, separate from other similar spinal conditions, like scoliosis and lordosis. Understanding these differences is crucial for recognizing symptoms, seeking appropriate treatment, and managing the condition effectively

Do you think you or a loved one might be experiencing symptoms of hyperkyphosis? Or are you trying to figure out whether it’s kyphosis or scoliosis? Now that you understand the condition in more depth, it’s essential to consult a professional about symptom management. 

If you’re looking for physical therapy and a holistic approach to managing your spinal condition, specifically scoliosis, talk to our knowledgeable team at The ScoliClinic. Our focus is providing high-quality, specific services to help you lead healthy, active lives.