– Question –
I’ve been noticing that my mom seems like she’s bent over, especially when she’s standing. She says she’s standing as straight as she can, but I can see that her back is obviously rounded!
She used to have good posture. Why is she so hunched over now?
– Answer –
Some rounding of the back is completely normal with age. But if the rounding makes it difficult to stand up completely straight, then your mom could have kyphosis.
What is kyphosis?
Kyphosis is a progressive spinal deformity that causes the upper back to curve forward. It isn’t life threatening and can be treated to slow or stop its progression.
Kyphosis happens gradually over a long period of time and is more common in older women due to osteoporosis (bone thinning). Curvature of the upper back can start as early as age 40!
People with kyphosis look like they’re slouching and rounding their shoulders forward. Some people may develop back pain or, in severe cases, difficulty breathing because the spine curves so much.
Causes of kyphosis
- Osteoporosis (thinning bones)
- Fractures or compression of the vertebrae (because of thin bones)
- Poor posture
- Muscle weakness
- Degenerative disc disease
- Ligament degeneration
Diagnosis and treatment
Kyphosis needs to be diagnosed by a doctor. The doctor will examine the back and may recommend an x-ray, CT scan, or MRI. This shows the how curved the spine is and helps determine what the proper treatment should be.
For example, if the kyphosis is caused by osteoporosis, the doctor will usually treat the osteoporosis to stop the curve from getting worse.
Physical therapy is also an effective treatment. Specific exercises can help someone with a rounded back gain flexibility and movement in their spine. Posture and back pain can be improved too.