Causes of Kyphosis

Reviewed by Jason M. Highsmith, MD

There are many possible causes of kyphosis, and narrowing down the curve's cause starts with narrowing down what type of kyphosis you have. Remember, there are 2 types: postural kyphosis and structural kyphosis.

Cause of Postural Kyphosis
The cause of postural kyphosis is easy to understand: Poor posture leads to an excessive rounding of the upper back. If you try, you can correct postural kyphosis, just by making a conscious effort to stand up straight and have good posture.

Causes of Structural Kyphosis
The second type of kyphosis, structural kyphosis, can't be corrected with postural work, and its causes are much more varied. The causes of structural kyphosis relate to problems with various structures in the spine.

One type of structural kyphosis is congenital kyphosis. "Congenital" means present at birth, so people with this type of structural kyphosis are born with either missing or incompletely formed parts of the spine. Congenital kyphosis is called a primary kyphosis because it's not related to another cause. During a growth period, a person with a vertebra that has not formed correctly may develop a pronounced kyphotic curve because of the underlying structural problems.

Then there's Scheuermann's kyphosis, also known as Scheuermann's disease. It's also considered a primary kyphosis because it's not caused by another condition. Right now, the medical community isn't exactly sure what causes Scheuermann's kyphosis, but they believe that it has something to do genetics. The condition seems to run in families.

Other possible causes of Scheuermann's kyphosis include interrupted bone growth, height, and weight.

Scheuermann's kyphosis occurs when the front of the spine doesn't grow as fast as the back of the spine. Doctors have found that some children begin to develop this type of kyphosis between the ages of 12 and 15—generally a period of bone growth.

Structural kyphosis can develop because of another spinal problem. This is known as secondary kyphosis; the kyphosis is "secondary to another medical condition" in doctor-speak.

Some conditions that can cause secondary kyphosis are:

Some other causes of secondary kyphosis are:

Degenerative Conditions
Over time, parts of our bodies can wear out or degenerate. When that happens, those body parts don't work as well, and this degeneration can lead to kyphosis. Two common degenerative conditions that can cause secondary kyphosis are:

Iatrogenic
In Greek, "iatro-" means medicine or physician; "genic" relates to the cause of something. So iatrogenic means that the physician's actions caused something to happen—and that's usually taken in a negative way. Certainly without intending to and with no malice involved, surgeons can sometimes cause a patient to develop an abnormal kyphotic curve following a surgery. This is very, very rare.

Trauma
If you experience a traumatic event—a car accident, a fall, a serious sports injury, etc—the injuries to your vertebrae and supporting soft tissues may cause secondary kyphosis. The following is a list of injuries that, in combination, can cause significant spinal instability and kyphosis.

Continue Reading

Exams and Tests for Kyphosis