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

Penn State Health includes the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, ranked as one of the best orthopaedic 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 advanced treatments, translational research and provider training.

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Penn State Health offers innovative, leading-edge care for complex orthopaedic conditions like kyphosis. Our team of experts uses a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to offer a wide range of care that includes orthopaedics, chronic pain management and therapy services to improve your body’s function and movement.

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