What Is Thoracic Kyphosis?
Thoracic kyphosis — sometimes referred to as roundback or hunchback — is a condition where the middle of your spine, called the thoracic spine, curves abnormally outward. This forces you to bend forward unnaturally. When you have thoracic kyphosis, it causes back pain, difficulty performing the activities of daily living and even mental and emotional problems.
Thoracic kyphosis is more commonly seen as an ongoing problem in older adults as a degenerative condition that continues to worsen. But it’s also common among teenagers. These young adults often undergo treatment to reduce the pain and consequences before their kyphosis can cause permanent damage.
What Causes Thoracic Kyphosis?
It takes an expert like Dr. Skovrlj to trace back the case of your thoracic kyphosis. It may be genetic, from an injury or lifestyle-based reason. Some of the different causes of thoracic kyphosis include:
- Broken bones
- Poor posture
- Spinal stress from work or a repeated activity
- Birth defects
- Thoracic deformity
- Degenerative diseases
- Muscle weakness
- Cancer treatments
- Scheuermann’s disease
Thoracic kyphosis is typically detected through the use of a Debrunner kyphometer, which measures the angle of your back in precise mathematical terms. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, your NU-Spine doctor effectively charts a course for treatment. Your treatment depends on the specifics of your diagnosis. For example:
- Some forms of the condition, like postural kyphosis, have much more to do with your lifestyle and posture habits.
- Some diseases, like Scheuermann’s disease, have an onset during puberty and can affect people with previously healthy spines.
- Other hunchback conditions are congenital, meaning that you’ve had them since birth.
What If I Don’t Treat My Thoracic Kyphosis?
It’s not recommended that you don’t get thoracic kyphosis treatment. Even non-invasive techniques can help more than doing nothing. Proper curvature of your spine is critical for several reasons, including:
- A normally curved back allows you to stand upright and maintain your balance.
- A correct curve protects your spinal cord sufficiently.
- The natural curve plays an integral role in the shock-absorbing properties needed in your back when you run and walk.
Mild abnormal curvatures of the spine aren’t always painful. You may consider this mild condition as related to adolescents slouching. But the longer thoracic kyphosis goes untreated, the higher risk you take of developing very painful symptoms later, especially in your lower back as it tries to compensate for the abnormality.
What Are the Consequences of Untreated Thoracic Kyphosis?
Over time, thoracic kyphosis seriously hampers your life, reducing opportunities and impacting your physical and mental health. A drop in self-esteem is a frequent result of thoracic kyphosis. So don’t ignore even mild discomfort. In the longer term, thoracic kyphosis can lead to:
- Motor skill impairment
- Digestive problems
- Decreased mobility
- Body image problems
- Decreased enjoyment and quality of life
- Decreased independence
- Increased lower back pain
Make the right decision to get your condition treated. Your spine surgeon at NU-Spine in Edison, NJ helps you make lifestyle and habit choices that improve your spinal health and quality of life.
What Are My Options for Thoracic Kyphosis Treatment?
There are many positive steps that you can take to combat thoracic kyphosis. The first line of defense typically involves special exercises to build your core strength and improve your posture. But conservative treatments don’t always produce results on their own. After you’ve tried physical therapy and thoracic kyphosis correction with back braces, you may want to explore the possibility of thoracic kyphosis surgery.
Thoracic kyphosis surgery is not normally recommended for adults unless you’re in serious pain. Your NU-Spine neurosurgeon is an expert at eliminating even minor pain and discomfort through spinal fusion, the gold standard for thoracic kyphosis surgery. Its advantages include:
- It involves the precise placement of screws and plates to readjust the angle of your spinal column.
- Your recovery usually takes between four and six weeks.
- Results make a huge difference in your emotional and physical well-being.
Can I Prevent Thoracic Kyphosis Symptoms?
Once you’ve undergone surgery to correct a hunchback, take steps to prevent this disease from returning. If you begin noticing the early signs of thoracic kyphosis again, don’t let it become full blown again or affecting your life. Strategies you’re encouraged to follow include:
- Taking extra mineral supplements, especially calcium and vitamin D
- Maintaining good posture while standing, sitting and driving
- Stretching in the morning and after exercising
- Including core strengthening in your regular exercise routine
- Wearing a brace when your back may be under additional stress
- Avoiding stress on your spine whenever possible