While the spine is somewhat rounded naturally, problems arise when this curvature becomes abnormal. This can cause “roundback,” also known as kyphosis of the spine or hunchback. There are different types of kyphosis, with one form or another affecting both men and women and all age groups.
Roundback may develop as the result of degenerative diseases or trauma and may even target specific body types. Among the causes of kyphosis of the spine are degenerative conditions (arthritis and osteoporosis), vertebral fractures, and trauma. The symptoms can range from pain-free slouching to more advanced spinal disorders like constant pain, breathing difficulties, and in the more severe cases, even death.
The Profiles of Kyphosis
There are actually five separate types of kyphosis. Although all of these may cause upper back and neck pain to some degree, each possess unique symptoms and causes:
- Postural Kyphosis – The most common variety of roundback, postural kyphosis is basically a non-painful, slightly exaggerated form of the spine’s natural curve, resulting from excessive slouching. Postural kyphosis of the spine typically appears during adolescence and is more common in girls. While it usually doesn’t correct itself, adult health problems are rare. Strengthening and stretching exercises may relive this form.
- Scheuermann's Kyphosis – While this type of kyphosis also develops during adolescence, this is often a more serious conditon. It can target patients’ thoracic (upper) and lumbar (lower) spine. Thinner individuals are at greater risk for Schueuermann’s kyphisos. If pain develops it strikes the spine’s highest point. This pain generally worsens with activity and long periods of standing or sitting. Both exercise and anti-inflammatory medication may provide relief.
- Congenital Kyphosis – This kind of roundback targets fetuses in the womb. It develops when the spinal columns do not properly develop. As a result, vertebral bones may become misaligned and/or fuse together. Without surgical treatments and regular follow-up, congenital kyphosis of the spine and related spinal disorders can become worse as children grow.
- Nutritional Kyphosis – Roundback can result from nutritional deficiencies that soften vertebral bones. Deficiencies such as the lack of vitamin D during childhood, a condition known as rickets, may lead to spine problems.
- Gibbus deformity – With this version of the disease, patients have an easily visible hump when bending forward. This roundback is thought to occur when vertebrae are damaged, usually from disease.