Excessive Curvature in the Upper Back

Kyphosis is a type of spinal deformity that causes the spine to curve and bow in an abnormal rounding of your upper back. It’s also known as a roundback, hunchback or dowager’s hump. Kyphosis affects people of all ages, but the condition is common during adolescence when bones are rapidly growing.

The most common types of kyphosis are:

  • Postural kyphosis – caused by poor posture or slouching
  • Scheuermann’s kyphosis – caused by a structural abnormality in the spine
  • Congenital kyphosis – occurs when the infant’s spine hasn’t developed normally before birth

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

The main signs of kyphosis are rounded shoulders and a hump in your upper back. Other symptoms may include:

  • Poor posture
  • Uneven shoulder or shoulder blade height and position
  • Numbness, tingling or weakness in your legs
  • Pain and stiffness in your shoulder blades and back
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

To diagnose kyphosis, the orthopaedic specialists at Penn State Health conduct a thorough physical exam and review of your medical history. A forward bend test, in which you bend forward with both feet together and let your arms hang free, is typically used to assess the slope of your spine and any spinal deformity.

Other tests may include:

  • Spine X-rays
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Pulmonary function test, if breathing is affected
  • Bone density test

Kyphosis can often be treated successfully, especially if treatment begins in the condition’s early stages. If left untreated, kyphosis can worsen and lead to health problems that disrupt your quality of life.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Top-Ranked by U.S. News & World Report

Penn State Health includes the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, ranked as one of the best orthopedic providers in the country by U.S. News & World Report. This honor was earned because our doctors consistently deliver exceptional patient care and outcomes through their commitment to advanced treatments, translational research and provider training.

Coordinated, Specialized Care Through a Dedicated Institute

Our orthopaedic specialists work together through our dedicated Penn State Bone and Joint Institute. There, they focus on providing you with multidisciplinary, tailored care and state-of-the-art treatments and technologies. This produces the highest-quality patient outcomes. All physicians at the institute are fellowship-trained and subspecialize in additional niche areas of orthopaedics, including arthritis care and joint arthroplasty (joint replacement surgery).

Designated as a Blue Distinction® Center

Penn State Bone and Joint Institute is a Blue Distinction Center for Knee and Hip Replacement. This superior designation from BlueCross BlueShield is only given to health care facilities and providers that stand out for their expertise in delivering specialty knee and hip replacement care. Our surgeons specialize in a range of pain-relieving procedures, including partial knee replacement, total joint arthroplasty, joint preservation surgery and complex revision surgery. They perform more than 1,000 joint replacement procedures every year.

Confidence in Treatment Through Education

We developed a special joint replacement education website just for patients undergoing joint arthroplasty. The website takes you step by step through the joint replacement process. From things to consider before choosing surgery to recovery after surgery, you’ll find the information you need to help you feel confident in your decision to undergo joint replacement.

Advancing Orthopaedic Medicine Through Research

The doctors and researchers in our Center for Orthopaedic Research and Translational Science at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center are committed to advancing our field through scientific discovery and education. As the only academic medical center in central Pennsylvania, Hershey Medical Center is a national leader in research, in partnership with Penn State College of Medicine, and on the leading edge of new treatment options, including clinical trials.

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