Kyphosis is the name given to the normal curvature of the human, thoracic spine (looking at the spine from front to back, this curvature is concave). If, for some reason however, the curve becomes abnormally pronounced, the condition is referred to as hyperkyphosis, commonly known as dowager’s hump, or simply kyphosis.

Why does this happen?

From a lateral, or sideways, view the human spine is not straight. The curves are designed to position the head over the pelvis, and distribute mechanical stress during movement. The natural, kyphotic curve of the thoracic spine (T1 – T12) can be clearly seen:

Normal and kyphotic spines

In some cases, the exact cause of the condition is poorly understood; however, it is relatively easy to classify the type of kyphosis that a patient has as:

Other forms of the condition exist, but are not covered here.