Kyphosisis curvature of the spine that causes the topof the back to appear more rounded than normal.

Everyone has some degree of curvature in their spine. However, a curve of more than45 degrees is considered excessive.

Sometimes kyphosis doesn'tcause any symptoms other than the back appearing abnormally curved or hunched. However, in some cases the condition causes:

Back pain can be particularly problematic in adults with kyphosis because the body has to compensate for the spinal abnormality.

If you havesevere kyphosis, your symptoms may get worse over time. You may also have difficulty breathing and eating.

What causes kyphosis?

In kyphosis, the normal curve in the middle section of vertebral column (the thoracic vertebrae) is more curved than normal. There are a number of reasons whythis might happen, including:

  • poor posture (postural kyphosis) slouching, leaning back in chairs and carrying heavy bags can stretch supporting muscles and ligaments, which can increase spinal curvature
  • abnormally shaped vertebrae (Scheuermanns kyphosis) if the vertebrae don't develop properly, they can end up being out of position
  • abnormal development of the spine in the womb (congenital kyphosis) if something disrupts the spine's normal development, two or more vertebrae sometimes fuse together
  • age as people get older, their spinal curvature can be expected to increase

Kyphosis can also develop as a result of a spinal injury.

Children with kyphosis may be able to be treated using non-surgical methods, such as bracing, to limit the progression of kyphosis as they grow. Treatment for mild kyphosis may not be necessary.

Kyphosis rarely requires surgical treatment. It's only needed in some severe cases to correct the curvature of the spine.

Some children can become socially withdrawn and they may be reluctant to take part in activities, such as PE, where their condition may be exposed.

There are no easy answers to these problems, but it can sometimes help to reassure your child that their feelings will improve with time.


Complications of kyphosis usually only occur in more severe cases. They include:

  • persistent pain that can't be controlled with medication
  • breathing difficulties caused by the spine compressing the lungs and airways

Occasionally, people with kyphosis can have difficulties when the nerves running through the spine become compressed or pinched. This can disrupt nerve signals and cause symptoms such as:

  • numbness or weakness in the arms and legs
  • problems with sense of balance
  • loss of normal bladder or bowel control

These serious complications require urgent medical attention and surgery would usually be recommended.

Can kyphosis be prevented?

Postural kyphosis can be prevented by being aware of your posture and by taking care of your back. You should encourage your child to:

  • avoid slouching
  • sit correctly sit upright, ensuring that the small of the back is supported
  • avoid carrying heavy schoolbags that can pull on the back muscles and ligaments; the best schoolbags are well-designed backpacks
  • take regular exercise (see below) to help strengthen the back and keep it flexible; activities such as swimming , running , walking , yoga and pilates are ideal for helping to prevent back problems

Further information:

  • Physical activity guidelines for children under five years of age
  • Physical activity guidelines for children and young people

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 25 Nov 2016