What is kyphosis?

A normal spine, when viewed from behind appears straight. A spine affected by kyphosis, however, shows evidence of a forward curvature of the back bones (vertebrae) in the upper back area, giving a "humpback" appearance.


The Scoliosis Research Society defines kyphosis as a curvature of the spine measuring 45 degrees or greater on an x-ray. The normal spine typically has 20 to 45 degrees of forward curvature in the upper back area. Kyphosis is a type of spinal deformity and should not be confused with poor posture.

What causes kyphosis?

Most commonly, kyphosis is postural and represents an exaggerated but flexible curve.  Usually postural kyphosis is noted during adolescence and is more common in girls than boys.  It rarely causes pain, but exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles and stretch the hamstrings may improve associated discomfort.  Postural kyphosis rarely causes problems into adult life. 

Other types of kyphosis can be congenital (present at birth), or due to acquired conditions that may include the following:

What are the symptoms?

The following are the most common symptoms of kyphosis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of kyphosis may resemble other spinal conditions or deformities, or may be a result of an injury or infection. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is kyphosis diagnosed?

The physician makes the diagnosis of kyphosis with a complete medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. If the patient is a child, the physician obtains a complete prenatal and birth history of him/her and asks if other family members are known to have kyphosis.

The physician also will ask about developmental milestones since some types of kyphosis can be associated with other neuromuscular disorders. Developmental delays may require further medical evaluation.

Diagnostic procedures may include the following:

Early detection of kyphosis is important for successful treatment. Pediatricians or family physicians, and even some school programs, routinely look for signs that kyphosis may be present.

Treatment of kyphosis

Specific treatment for kyphosis will be determined by your physician based on:

The goal of treatment is to stop the progression of the curve and prevent deformity. According to the Scoliosis Research Society, treatment may include:

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