What is Kyphosis?
Kyphosis is a condition involving the patient’s development of a hunched back. Depending on its severity, there are medical and alternative kyphosis treatment options, such as chiropractic. Kyphosis is also known as roundback or might be known as Kelso’s hunchback, where the spine is overly curved in the upper back (thoracic vertebrae). This condition can be brought on due to developmental problems, such as from Scheuermann’s disease, osteoporosis, trauma, compression fractures, or degenerative diseases, such as arthritis. In this disorder, the spine loses its “lordotic profile”. This leads the back to bow and causing a slouch that affects the patient’s daily quality of life.1
Kyphosis is measured with the Cobb angle. This angle is formed between a line drawn parallel to the vertebrae that are positioned above the fracture and a line that is drawn parallel to the vertebra that are located one level below the fracture.2
Condition Severity and Effects
Most cases of this condition are mild. However, debilitating and serious cases can eventually lead, if left unmanaged and untreated, to many additional problems. These include difficulties in digestion and breathing, pain, neurological and cardiovascular problems, and even a shortening of the patient’s lifespan. The most severe cases tend to require strong interventions, such as spinal fusion surgery. Kyphosis, like many conditions, needs to be caught and treated long before it reaches such a dire point as degeneration in the patient’s living condition and surgery.
There are a few classifications of this disorder. Postural kyphosis, which can also be known simply as “slouching” in young people, may be corrected through the resolution of muscular imbalances. In the elderly, this condition is called “hyperkyphosis”, and it can be caused by the effects of aging or fractures. Scheuermann’s kyphosis is an even worse condition, and it can be very painful. It is a version of juvenile osteochondrosis, and it is found in teenagers. In this condition, patients find themselves unable to correct their own posture, and the unnatural, more severe curve in the spine is rigid. It is often more painful after standing or sitting for too long of a period of time, or from physical activity. The vertebrae and disks no longer appear normal; they are wedge-shaped or herniated. Patients may feel fatigue and social isolation.
Congenital kyphosis refers to infants whose spine did not develop properly prior to their birth. Nutritional kyphosis can happen with a lack of vitamin D, causing rickets and softened bones. Some people who have not had their fractures of the vertebrae, which occurred due to external damage and injury, corrected might develop post-traumatic kyphosis.3
Medical Treatment Options
Medically, conservative kyphosis treatments can range, depending on the severity of the condition, from body braces to physical therapy. The most complicated conditions can require spinal fusion surgery. This is especially true in the cases of vertebral collapse. Kyphoplasty is a less invasive form of surgery that might be able to heal some of the deformity and relieve the pain it has caused. It is performed to restore the damaged vertebra. Spinal fusion surgery carries risks, including tissue inflammation, nerve injuries, bleeding, and breathing difficulties. Some patients require multiple surgeries in an attempt to fix the condition when just one invasive procedure did not suffice, and the long-term outcome is unknown.4
Chiropractic care may help some patients with certain types of kyphosis. The effectiveness of the treatment is dependent on the severity of the condition and the patient’s overall physical state, but it is an option that is noninvasive and might at least be tried first before turning to a more serious treatment like surgery.
A recent case study examined the effectiveness of using chiropractic care as a method of treatment for Scheuermann’s kyphosis. The patient in the study had been taking pain medication to manage the pain of the condition. The chiropractic plan used cervical and thoracic spine manipulation, as well as physical therapy and exercises. Following treatment. the patient demonstrated improvements in their ability to engage in retraction of shoulders and anterior head carriage.
Patients can benefit from the pain relief and postural correction of chiropractic care. Chiropractic can help patients who might not be compliant with regularly wearing their braces, and for those conditions that do not fully warrant the risks of back surgery.5 Patients with this hunchback condition should avoid certain physical activities that affect the thoracic spine, and chiropractic treatment should be customized for the type of kyphosis, something which does affect the chiropractor’s method of treatment and recommended exercises. Chiropractic care could also be used to treat other conditions that the patient suffers from, in addition to kyphosis, so that the patients leave the office after a few treatments in a much better physical and mental condition than how they were prior to treatment.6
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