WHAT IS KYPHOSIS OR HYPERKYPHOSIS?
Hyperkyphosis is a spinal deformity where the normal curvature (normal kyphosis) of the spine is accentuated to the extent that the back becomes rounded and the head and neck are protruded forward. This disorder can sometimes develop during maturation and worsen during adulthood, but it can also be the result of degenerative changes due to ageing. Hyperkyphosis is often referred to as kyphosis for short.
It is important to distinguish between thoracic kyphosis (backward curvature) considered as normal (as opposed to hypo- or hyperkyphosis) and cervical or lumbar kyphosis, which are by definition completely abnormal as the neck (cervical) and lower back (lumbar) regions should have a forward curvature (lordotic curve) for ideal alignment and optimal spinal and neurological health.
There are several types of thoracic hyperkyphosis, the most frequent of which are the following:
Postural hyperkyphosis (sometimes also referred to as idiopathic): usually results from maintaining an inadequate posture and is generally possible to improve using appropriate spinal remodelling, especially in younger subjects, as it presents no significant identifiable vertebral deformities.
Scheuermann’s hyperkyphosis: consists of a local structural deformation of a region of the spinal column—usually the thoracic region—which leads to an unaesthetic and generally pronounced spinal deformity. It is attributable to Scheuermann’s disease, which affects at least three consecutive vertebral segments and whose cause remains to this day unknown. As it is, strictly speaking, considered to be a spinal deformity not unlike scoliosis, the patient with this condition is unable to straighten their posture by means of muscular effort only.
They may also feel a considerable amount of pain. A range of therapeutic solutions are available to treat both the deformity and the associated pain.
Hyperkyphosis acquired through vertebral compression: is a condition that is due to a weakened vertebral bone matrix. The vertebra are consequently very brittle and vulnerable to fractures, as is the case with osteoporosis. On rare occasions it can also result from a sudden traumatic vertebral fracture that leaves the spine flexed in a forward bend position.
Camptocormia or bent spine syndrome: affects older subjects and consists in a straightening of the lower back curvature (flattened lordotic curve or lumbar kyphosis) and leads to a forward inclination of the upper body, so that the patient must eventually bend their knees in order to be able to look forward. This condition can be associated with degenerative de novo scoliosis or not, to Parkinson’s syndrome, to dystonia or to various neuromuscular disorders and greatly impacts the patient’s mobility and quality of life on top of reducing their life expectancy.
Treatment consists mainly of palliative measures designed to help patients to better cope with their condition as this is a degenerative pathology linked to ageing and usually affecting those who are already physically diminished in some way.
Hyperkyphosis can affect various regions of the thoracic spine as shown in the following images (the green line is representative of an ideal spinal column):
High thoracic hyperkyphosis
Low thoracic hyperkyphosis
CONSEQUENCES OF HYPERKYPHOSIS
While lesser curves pose less of a risk to the patient’s quality of life, more severe cases of hyperkyphosis can affect various vital functions and negatively impact their health. Maintaining such a forward-bending position for prolonged periods exerts a compressive force on the heart and lungs (thoracic insufficiency syndrome), affects the neurological, muscular and digestive functions and even decreases life expectancy on top of exerting incapacitating pain.
As kyphosis can eventually lead to disastrous consequences, a preventive treatment like SpineCor®, which simultaneously addresses the neurological, muscular and skeletal aspects of the affliction can be of benefit to the patient.