© 2003 Andrew Thompson
The spine has four natural curves which form a type of "suspension" to help cushion the spine, hips, and head from the stresses of movement.
The two outward (kyphotic) curves are located in the thoracic and sacral regions, while the two inward (lordotic) curves occur in the lumbar and cervical regions.
Kyphosis is an exaggerated rounding of the back, particularly in the upper thoracic region. The three forms of kyphosis are Postural, Scheuermann's, and Congenital.
Postural kyphosis is the most common type, and is usually brought on by poor posture during teenage years. It is principally a cosmetic deformity and rarely leads to pain or problems in later life.
Vertebrae and disks will appear normal in an x-ray. Curvature can often be corrected to some extent by stretching, and strengthening the opposing muscles.
Scheuermann's kyphosis also tends to become apparent during adolescence, however the deformity is much more pronounced, particularly in thin people.
This condition can be significantly exacerbated by continued poor postural habits such as sitting at a desk for long periods. An x-ray will reveal irregular wedge shaped vertebra and disks. Scheuermann's kyphosis requires medication and in some cases, a back brace may be of use if the condition is diagnosed early enough.
Congenital kyphosis is a condition found in infants, where the spinal column doesn't develop properly before birth. Unfortunately, this condition will usually require surgery at a very young age.
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