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What is Kyphosis and What You Can Do About It

Picture of a woman with kyphosis, also known as hunchback

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What is Kyphosis (Kie-fo-sis)?

I decided to write about this topic because this is a condition that I do see often in the clinic. Whether it’s from bad posture or just degenerative changes in the bones, this over-arching can cause discomfort, and more noticeably can make an impact on our appearance.

Kyphosis is an abnormal curvature which affects primarily the cervical and thoracic spine. It is most common in the thoracic spine, though it can also affect the cervical and lumbar spine.1 Your spine has natural curves in the upper and middle part of your spine as well as lower. However, when the curvature of the spine begins to extensively round the upper back and become convexed, that is known as kyphosis.2 A common term is “hunchback”, or “roundback”.

What Causes Kyphosis?

Kyphosis, rounding of the spine, known as hunchback.
Kyphosis primarily occurs in the thoracic spine.

Well, posture can play a role, so listen up when a teacher tells you to sit up straight, no matter how old you are.

As you’re reading this are your shoulders rolled out awaiting the next life changing word or phrase? Well, Stop it!

Ok, posture is not the only cause. Congenital conditions can play a role (diseases and disorders that occur at birth). Scheuermann’s disease affects children and has no known cause.3 Other causes may include osteoporosis (loss bone mass), which is one of the leading causes of this condition in adults, with women being more common than men due to the loss of estrogen.4 Also, corticosteroids in high doses may play a role in weakening the bone in adults which can also be a major contributing factor.5 Arthritis, spinal deformities, and trauma can also play a role.

As mentioned earlier, scheuermann’s disease affects kids, boys more than girls, and causes the back of the vertebrae to growth more than the front, causing the spine to round forward.

Other signs in children include a difference in shoulder height, a difference in shoulder blade positions, or if the upper back looks higher than normal.6

Treatment options for Thoracic Curvature

Posutral kyphosis, man with hunchback
Treatments for Kyphosis include exercise.

With modern techniques such as X-ray imaging and MRI’s, and with the knowledge we know so far, it seems like there are some treatment options available for people suffering.

Braces are used in children, goal is to help the spine grow into correct alignment. Exercise is prescribed in posture induced cases.

For adults, a conservative treatment regimen is sought out first, with surgical intervention is only recommended when the benefits outweigh the risks.

Yoga, massage therapy, chiropractic care, and physical therapy can all be beneficial. Stretch, align, reduce the inflammation, massage the muscles, rinse and repeat.

What do YOU do when presented with this condition in the clinic?

In the clinic I use a combination of acupressure, cupping, and acupuncture to help treat for pain relief and to help promote healthy alignment of the spine. A case report of a 74 year old woman with kyphoscoliosis (which is rounding and deviation of the spine) underwent an acupuncture regimen. After 6 weeks of treatment, the patient’s lower backache decreased and follow-up radiographs showed that the Cobb angle (method is used to measure the degree of scoliosis7) decreased by 10 degrees.8 The patient still underwent corrective surgery for the condition, however this case report shows that acupuncture can be very beneficial to the overall improvement outcome even when surgical intervention is needed. Another study looked at intensive rehabilitation of pain due to sheuermann’s disease which included manual therapy and acupuncture, in which the study showed a pain reduction between 16 and 32%.9

As an Acupuncturist healthcare provider, I utilize a combination of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Bio-medical science to help patients see improvements. This is the overall framework that a typical practitioner will use, and progress to diagnosis the condition based on the underlying symptoms of the patient. Can Chinese Medicine better help to understand the curvature in the spine? Yes it can. You see, any problem in the body that causes impairment/dysfunction of the meridians will cause pain and disorder, not only in the areas affected but also in other parts of the body. There are many articles to help you understand more about acupuncture and Chinese medicine theory. The more we can approach a treatment through various methods that are safe and helpful, the better for everyone.

I thought this video would be a good start to help your mind move in the right direction.

As always, remember to consult your primary healthcare provider before starting an exercise treatment regimen.

Lastly I am not the person in the video, enjoy 🙂

 

  1. University of Maryland Medical Center. 2003. A Patient’s Guide to Adult Kyphosis. http://www.umm.edu/programs/spine/health/guides/adult-kyphosis. Retrieved Oct. 26th, 2017
  2. 2017. Kyphosis. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyphosis. Retrieved October 26th, 2017
  3. Krucik, G.2016. What Causes Kyphosis. https://www.healthline.com/symptom/kyphosis. Retrieved October 26th, 2017
  4. University of Maryland Medical Center. 2003. A Patient’s Guide to Adult Kyphosis. http://www.umm.edu/programs/spine/health/guides/adult-kyphosis. Retrieved Oct. 26th, 2017
  5. Kyphosis. 2014. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kyphosis/basics/causes/con-20026732
  6. Joseph, T. Mloney, A. Turley, R.Kyphosis in Children. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=90&ContentID=P02239. Retrieved Oct. 26th, 2017
  7. GREINER.K. 2002. Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis: Radiologic Decision-Making. Am Fam Physician
  8. Liu C, Chen K, Chiu E. 2009. Adult degenerative scoliosis treated by acupuncture. Journal of Alternative Complement Med. Retrieved Oct. 26th, 2017
  9. Weiss H, Dieckmann J, Gerner H. 2002. Effect of intensive rehabilitation on pain in patients with Scheuermann’s disease. Stud Health Technol Inform. Retrieved Oct. 26, 2017
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Hi name is Carlo St. Juste II, L.Ac and I'm a Licensed Acupuncturist in the state of California. I've also studied the martial arts for ten years in the styles of Kung Fu, Tai chi, & grappling. My Interests include nature, hiking, philosophy, technology, health and wellness.
I enjoy writing and published my holistic health and wellness book in 2015. Here on this site I feel more free to share my philosophies, theories, and general ideas that I find inside and outside the clinic. I'm Always living life to the fullest and trying to help make this world a better place.