To better understand this condition, we’ll first look at the anatomy of the human spine. The human spinal column is divided into three sections: the lumbar spine, the thoracic spine and the cervical spine. If the cervical region of the spinal column loses its normal curvature which is lordotic (reverse C shaped), and your spine curves in the forward direction instead, it is an abnormal condition which is termed as cervical kyphosis.
This abnormal forward curvature of the spine not only leads to spinal deformity and has a cosmetically bad impact, but it also produces some other complications and spine problems, such as cervical myelopathy (a painful condition where the spinal cord becomes pinched in the cervical region of the spine).
The degree of severity of this disease can range from small changes to the normal anatomical shape of the back and neck, to severe forms of deformity, chronic pain, and neurological deficit, leading to cervical alignment changes.
Various signs and symptoms, as well as causes and treatment methods of kyphosis will be discussed further down below.
Different Forms of Kyphosis
Kyphosis typically affects the thoracic region of the spine, and one of the most common forms of thoracic kyphosis is scheuermann kyphosis. However, it can also affect the cervical spine at times, to various degrees of severity.
Apart from the degrees of severity that kyphosis can come in, there are also types associated with this condition. Some of the types of cervical spine kyphosis include:
- Postural Kyphosis. It is the most common cause of kyphosis, which is also attributed to slouching. It can be corrected by treating the imbalance in the muscles and ligaments of the back by using braces or by performing regular exercises.
- Juvenile Kyphosis. It is a more rigid and severe sort of deformity which creates much cosmetic impairment. It can run in families, hence has genetics in origin. Classically it appears in younger adolescent boys. It can be corrected by surgical intervention or braces.
- Congenital Kyphosis. It appears at birth. It takes place if the vertebral column of the child is not normally developed in the uterus of the mother. Most commonly, it needs surgical intervention for treatment.
Additionally, the cervical region of the spine can also be affected by lordosis, also called cervical lordosis, which is a different type of cervical deformity, where the curvature of the neck is less accentuated than in a normal spine.
Causes of Cervical Kyphosis
- Degenerative Disc Disease. The process of degeneration of intervertebral disc creates many problems in the vertebral column. Disc degeneration process is also age-related. Age-related wear and tear changes cause the disc to collapse. The weight of the head places extra pressure on the discs of the cervical region of the spinal column. This imbalance of forces pushes the neck in the forward direction. This process slowly leads an enhancing curvature and result in cervical kyphosis.
- A birth defect is the second most common cause of cervical kyphosis. If a baby is born with a malformation of the vertebral column, it leads to a kyphosis type curvature in the cervical area. Congenital anomalies also cause the growth disturbances of the vertebral bones. Vertebrae do not grow in their normal shape. Instead, they grow in a triangular shape in such a way that the pointed end is directed forward. The presence of congenital kyphosis in a child, most probably presents itself along other birth defects.
- Injury or trauma to the cervical region of the spinal column. Injury may be caused to the ligaments of the cervical region, or it may also occur due to a compression fracture of the vertebral bones. It is to be noted that when cervical vertebrae have an injury in the form of a compression fracture, the body of vertebrae usually heals in a wedge shape.
- Iatrogenic cervical kyphosis may also happen after a failed attempt at vertebral column fusion.
Other less common causes of cervical kyphosis are an infection of the vertebral column, tumors of the vertebral column or some systemic diseases which have an impact on the spine, such as ankylosing spondylitis.
Symptoms of Cervical Kyphosis
Cervical kyphosis deformities range from mild kyphosis to severe kyphosis, or even paralysis if left untreated. Here are some of the symptoms most commonly associated with this condition:
- Neck problems, more specifically mechanical neck pain can arise, if you suffer from kyphosis due to degenerative disc disease.
- Decreased range of movements in the neck. It means that the affected person is unable to fully rotate their neck.
- Problems with the nerve roots of the vertebral column. If the kyphosis is severe, it can put pressure on the spinal cord. This results in decreased grip, weakness, or pain in the arms or legs, and difficulty in walking due to muscle spasms in legs.
- Loss of bowel or bladder function if the nerve supplying the bladder and anal sphincters impinge.
- Paralysis occurs in very severe circumstances but is not impossible.
How it is Diagnosed?
Kyphosis is diagnosed by taking the patient’s history and performing a thorough physical examination. Below are a few examples of questions you might be asked during an examination.
- When did the pain start?
- Do you feel weakness, numbness or tingling sensations in the upper and lower extremities?
- Have you had any trauma or injury?
- Have you had any surgery of back?
- Does the pain radiate to your arms and legs?
- Do you face any problem while walking?
- Do you have any problem in the bowel or bladder function?
Before making a final diagnosis, the doctor performs a complete physical examination specifically the examination of the neck. The doctor will carry out the following diagnostic tests to determine the condition you suffer from.
- Up to what extent, you are able to bend your neck and move your head in all directions.
- How well you are able to roll your neck.
- If there is pain or tenderness in the cervical area
- Is there any spasm in the cervical region or in other regions of the back?
Tests to know the functions of nerves are also important. These tests include:
- Testing for numbness and tingling sensations in the hands, wrists, and arms.
- Tests for reflexes.
- Testing the strength of musculature of legs, hands, and arms.
- Testing for the functions of nerves.
Your doctor may also order the relevant investigation to know the condition of the back. These radiological investigations include X-Ray, CT scan, and MRI.
The treatment for kyphosis depends on the severity of your condition, as well as personal preferences. In more severe cases, surgery can be effective at treating this condition. Spinal fusion is one of the most common surgical procedures performed for kyphosis.
Milder forms of cervical kyphosis can be treated by a physical therapist, or through physical therapy, that you can do with, or without the assistance of a specialist.
The Most Effective Treatment of Cervical Kyphosis
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Author: Spinal Backrack