A healthy spine has three natural curves that form an S-shape. The cervical curve is inward or forward at the neck, the thoracic curve is outward or backward at the upper back, and the lumbar curve is an inward curve at the lower back. These curves allow you to stand upright and provide balance.
A spine looks straight when viewed from behind. However, if someone has kyphosis, their spine has a forward curvature in the upper back area. It makes their backbones appear rounded and gives them a hunchbacked appearance. Someone with scoliosis has an S-shaped curve in the middle or upper region of their spine and a secondary arc at the bottom of the backbone. Our team at NJ Spine & Orthopedic can help you determine the best course of treatment for either your kyphosis or scoliosis.
Characteristics of Kyphosis
A healthy spine can bend up to 45 degrees of curvature in the upper back. Yet, if the curve overextends above 50 degrees, it’s deemed abnormal and referred to as thoracic hyperkyphosis. The term kyphosis is commonly used to describe these abnormal curves. You may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- One shoulder may be higher than the other
- The shoulder blades may be at different heights or positions
- Your head may appear to bend forward toward the rest of your body
- When you bend forward, the upper part of your back may appear higher than usual
- Your hamstrings (muscles at the back of your thighs) may feel tight, and you may experience back pain, but it’s not severe enough to affect your everyday activities
Three types of kyphosis can affect individuals at different stages of their lives. Congenital kyphosis is present at birth and may worsen as the child grows. Surgery is often necessary at a young age to prevent further health problems.
How Does Kyphosis Differ From Scoliosis?
Sometimes the curves of the spine arc forward or sideward in areas where it shouldn’t and causes pain, stiffness, numbness, cramping, or fatigue. Spinal curvature can be a result of two conditions—scoliosis or kyphosis. Although both are comparable, they aren’t the same.
Kyphosis is more of a forward rounding of the back, which leads to a hunchback or slouching posture. It can occur at any age, though it’s more commonly found in adults and can be more painful than scoliosis. This is because the condition is related to degeneration of the spine caused by arthritis, fractures stemming from osteoporosis, spinal injuries, or spondylolisthesis, when one vertebra slips down onto another.
Conversely, scoliosis is when the spine has a sideways curvature that takes the shape of the letters “S” or “C.” Initial symptoms of degenerative adult scoliosis often present as mid- to lower-back pain and stiffness. Other symptoms include difficulty sitting or standing and trouble walking due to a loss of leg muscle coordination.
Patients may have a humpback, nerve damage leading to weakness, numbness, pain in legs and feet, a protruding rib, reduced height due to a curved spine, shortness of breath and fatigue caused by an upper spine curve, and spinal stiffness. Scoliosis treatment is determined by the patient’s age and curvature severity. Bracing is used in children to prevent the curve from worsening. A brace must be worn most of the day and used until the patient stops growing.
Contact the Spine Specialists at NJ Spine & Orthopedic Today
Untreated kyphosis and scoliosis may result in further symptoms as time goes on. Our medical team at NJ Spine & Orthopedic can evaluate your medical records and create a treatment plan for your needs.
If you have a degenerative disc disease like scoliosis, our integrated team of specialists at NJ Spine & Orthopedic will work together to create a personalized treatment plan for you. Call (866) 553-0612 or fill out our online contact form to schedule an appointment, so we can help you get back to enjoying a pain-free life.