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Many people are likely familiar with the term “C-shaped spine.” The medical and perhaps less familiar phrase for a curved spine is kyphosis. Although kyphosis can occur at any age, the condition most often happens either during adolescence or as a result of aging. In addition to altering appearance, kyphosis can be uncomfortable and painful, and it can restrict mobility and even normal breathing.

Our OrthoAspen orthopedic experts are educated, skilled and practiced in providing treatment solutions to help relieve the symptoms associated with kyphosis.


Causes, Types & Symptoms

Typically, the thoracic spine is aligned between 20 to 45 degrees. When the curve of the spine extends to greater than 50 degrees, the medical terminology for this condition is “hyperkyphosis.

In adults, kyphosis may develop as a result of degenerative diseases such as arthritis, disc degeneration, osteoporotic fractures, traumatic injuries and slippage of the vertebral disc. Kyphosis most commonly affects the thoracic spine, but can involve the cervical and lumbar portions too.

In children and adolescents, there are three common types of kyphosis:

  • Postural Kyphosis
    Postural kyphosis first manifests as poor posture or slouching, but is not linked with severe structural abnormalities of the spine.
  • Scheuermann’s Kyphosis
    Scheuermann’s kyphosis typically occurs in the teen years as a significantly more severe deformity (opposed to postural kyphosis).
  • Congenital Kyphosis
    Congenital kyphosis is a result of the spinal column failing to develop normally while the baby is in utero and usually becomes worse over time.

The symptoms of kyphosis vary based on the type and severity. They can range from a minor change in the shape or appearance of the back to more severe nerve problems and long-lasting back pain. There may be weakness in the legs because of the pressure exerted on the spinal cord and nerve from the spinal curvature.

Additional symptoms of adult kyphosis include:

  • Rounded shoulders
  • A hump on the back visible to the eye (hunchback)
  • Fatigue
  • Stiffness in the spine
  • Pressure in the area of the lungs

At OrthoAspen, our elite spine specialists are dedicated to helping you find the best way to address the symptoms of kyphosis. To properly assess the type and degree of kyphosis present, your OrthoAspen doctor obtains a brief family history, history of present symptoms and past medical history, as well as whether you have undergone spinal surgery in the past. The next step includes a careful physical examination.

Your OrthoAspen physician evaluates the spine movement, strength of the muscles and sensation in order to make a proper diagnosis—and also to rule out other similar conditions. Diagnostic tests such as X-rays, an MRI or a CT scan may be done to evaluate the structure of the spine and measure the curve. MRIs and CTs help identify nerve and spinal cord abnormalities.


Adult kyphosis has several treatment options. Whenever possible, our OrthoAspen orthopedic physicians will attempt to apply conservative methods first.

Conservative treatment methods for kyphosis include:

  • Medications
    Anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed to help reduce pain, swelling and discomfort
  • Casts and Braces
    These are used as support devices for the spine
  • Physical Therapy
    Exercises along with a rehabilitation program help to control pain, improve strength and mobility, as well as perform daily activities easily. Although the kyphotic curve cannot be rectified with the help of exercises, pain is often reduced and/or eliminated. Physical therapy sessions are typically scheduled two to three times per week and should be continued for up to six weeks.

In cases where osteoporosis is the cause of kyphosis, slowing the progression of osteoporosis is recommended with the intake of vitamin D and calcium supplements, hormone replacement therapy, and regular exercises.

Our OrthoAspen spine surgeons generally suggest spinal surgery as a last treatment option. The risks and complications that may occur with having spinal surgery are always weighed against the potential benefits.

Surgery for kyphosis may be considered if a patient is experiencing:

  • Chronic, severe pain
  • Progression of the curvature to a more severe degree
  • Cosmetic reasons

If surgery is performed, the goal is to straighten the spine and join the vertebrae to form a solid bone, thus reducing the deformity. Metal screws, plates or rods are used to hold the vertebrae in place during the fusion.

To learn more or to schedule an appointment, click here or call us at 970-544-1289.


Visit OrthoAspen in two convenient locations
Aspen Clinic
Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Creek Rd., Suite 2100,

Aspen, CO 81611
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400
Basalt Clinic
Midvalley Medical Center
1450 E. Valley Rd., Suite 201,

Basalt, CO 81621
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400