There’s no denying how remarkable the human spine is. After all, it’s normally able to withstand the stress from daily movement and regular activity fairly well. However, for some people, all the years of stress and strain cause the spine’s natural curvature to become irregular—a condition known as hyperkyphosis when it affects the thoracic (upper) spine. Today, we’re going to discuss how to treat this condition, which affects an estimated 20 to 40 percent of adults.

What Is Age-Related Hyperkyphosis?

Before discussing treatment, let’s learn more about this condition, which is sometimes referred to as “hunchback.” Age-related hyperkyphosis usually becomes an obvious concern when a “hunch” or abnormal curvature develops in the middle of the back. Poor posture, spinal discs that naturally lose their sponginess over time because of age-related moisture loss, and weakened spine-supporting extensor muscles are common contributing factors related to this condition.

If not treated, age-related hyperkyphosis may result in an assortment of related problems as the abnormal curvature and spinal instability gets worse, including:

  • Reduced mobility and difficulty walking
  • Lung-related issues
  • Increased risk of spinal bone (vertebral) fractures
  • Increased risk of fractures from falls
  • Spinal instability
  • Reduced independence because of the loss of certain functions

Because the problems listed above can result in the need for advanced treatment, such as vertebroplasty surgery, Santa Monica patients who suspect they have hyperkyphosis should see a spine specialist as soon as possible.

How Is a Diagnosis Made?

A diagnosis of hyperkyphosis is often made during a physical exam, since the abnormal curvature is usually obvious. If the curvature isn’t too noticeable yet, you may be asked to do balance tests, or the physician may observe as you rise from a seated to a standing position. Image tests are usually performed to confirm a suspected issue with hyperkyphosis and check for related structural issues.

What Are Your Treatment Options?

If hyperkyphosis is extreme and you’re considered healthy enough to have surgery, this is often the preferred treatment. The common goals for surgery performed on patients with age-related hyperkyphosis include:

  • Decreasing the abnormal curvature as much as possible
  • Preventing the worsening of the curvature
  • Stabilizing the spine
  • Reducing stress on the upper spine and vital organs in this are

Surgery is often coupled with certain nonsurgical treatments. For example, your Santa Monica spine surgeon may prescribe medication to increase bone density and keep the spinal bones and joints in the upper back strong and less susceptible to fractures. Physical therapy may be recommended as well to stabilize and strengthen the back and abdominal muscles. Doing so may also naturally ease pressure on the spine and enhance posture.

Once you’ve been treated for age-related hyperkyphosis surgically or with physical therapy and other non-surgical options, it’s still important to be mindful of your posture throughout your day, as this can prevent new problems from developing because of added stress and strain on your spine. If surgery ends up being recommended due to the extent of your abnormal upper spinal curvature, realize many of the procedures performed today are less invasive, which often means fewer risks and faster recovery periods.

If you suspect you may have age-related hyperkyphosis, make sure to see an experienced spine specialist for prompt diagnosis and treatment. The industry-leading physicians at The Spine Institute are pioneers in spinal health, employing cutting-edge technology and innovative methods to enable patients to live pain-free, active lives. To schedule a personal consultation with one of our spinal health experts, give us a call today at 310-828-7757.