The thoracic spine is made up of the middle 12 vertebrae in the back. These vertebrae connect to the ribs and create the walls of the “thorax”, essentially, the ribcage that separates the upper chest and neck from the lower intestines and diaphragm.The thoracic spine has a 20-40-degree natural curve.
What is Scheuermann’s Kyphosis?
Kyphosis itself, is a type of spinal deformity, in which the thoracic spine will have an abnormal, C-shaped curvature of more than 40/45 degrees.
Scheuermann’s Kyphosis is a developmental form of kyphosis, occurring during our adolescence, most often in the midst of a growth spurt or main growth phases – like puberty.
The vertebrae are usually rectangular and stacked on top of one another like building blocks with a soft cushion in between each one, the disc. If they wedge closer together in a triangular shape, as with Scheuermann’s kyphosis, it causes the spine to curve forward far more than it normally would.
Causes of Scheuermann’s Kyphosis
The exact causes of Scheuermann’s Kyphosisis still relatively unknown, however many medical researchers believe it has to do with an interruption in the bone growth or the abnormal development of the vertebrae during puberty or during early adolescence. Other factors that have been known to have an effect of this condition include:
- Excess Height or Weight
- Poor Posture
- Prior Vertebral Fractures
Most patients will begin to see symptoms during their teenage years. These include:
- Poor Posture
- Mid-Back Pain
- Hunched Back
- “C” Shaped Spine – With more than a 40-45degree curvature.
- Breathing Issues (in rare cases)
Treatment for Scheuermann’s Kyphosis is dependent upon the patient’s age, gender, as well as the severity of the curve. Generally, if these factors are on the severe end, surgery may be necessary.
However, for most patients the spinal curve remains moderate for most of their lives and they may require an occasional X-Ray in order to monitor it.
Non-Surgical Options include:
- Physical Therapy
- Medication – Pain relivers.
- Bracing or Casting – In some cases wearing a brace can moderately help correct the spinal curve, but its main purpose is to stop the progression of the curve. This also takes a majority of the pressure off the front half of the vertebrae allowing the bone to grow better than it would without it. And in some instances, it can be used in the interim to delay spinal fusion surgery.
If your spinal curve continues to worsen, surgery will become necessary. Generally, surgery is reserved for the most severe spinal curves, greater than 75 degrees.
- Spinal Fusion – Most often surgical treatment requires spinal fusion surgery to fuse the curved vertebrae and limit the curve.
- Spinal Instrumentation – In some cases it may also require spinal instrumentation to help realign the curve.
For more information on Scheuermann’s Kyphosis, other spinal deformities and issues, or to schedule a consultation, contact Dr. Arutyunyantoday.