Written and reviewed for scientific and factual accuracy by Dr. Austin Jelcick, PhD and Dr. Matthew Janzen, DC
One frequently asked question we encounter from patients’ is what is the difference between scoliosis and kyphosis? Well, scoliosis and kyphosis both refer to some kind of abnormal curvature of the spine that can lead to discomfort and pain if the situation is severe enough. However, while they are both conditions that affect the spine, there are some differences between the two that are worth noting.
Scoliosis is a spinal condition that presents as a lateral bend in the spine along with vertebrae that have twisted out of normal alignment. People suffering from this condition may also experience a loss of normal spinal curves, which can impact posture, appearance, and more.
While it is possible for newborns to have scoliosis, it usually doesn’t develop until later in their adolescence. That does not, however, mean that it is strictly a problem for children because it is also an issue with the adult spine.
Of course, every case is different, and the curve in the spine can range from very mild to very severe. The root cause of the curvature may be very different, too, and understanding the cause is extremely important to help determine the treatment.
The three root causes of scoliosis include:
- Nerve tension – This is likely the most common cause and occurs when tumors or cysts or something like Tethered Cord Syndrome cause the spine to coil down into scoliosis.
- Structural causes – Sometimes the bones are abnormally shaped or half-formed. Sometimes one leg may grow longer than another. There are also cases where ligament damage or trauma can lead to scoliosis.
- Neuro-muscular pathology – If there is a disconnect in the body’s control system (the brain or the nerves) then the muscles may not work correctly, leading to a bent spine.
Kyphosis is actually a perfectly normal condition in which the spine bends forward. Hyperkyphosis is when the spine bends forward more than normal. If the condition is severe enough, it can give the back a rounded appearance. Like scoliosis, this condition usually becomes visible once a child hits adolescence, but usually only becomes painful in extreme cases.
There are several potential causes of hyperkyphosis, including everything from poor posture to osteoporosis to spine tumors. There are three basic types of kyphosis that can be diagnosed in adults:
- Age-associated – Eventually, as bones lose calcium and the discs degenerate through the aging process, kyphosis may result.
- Post-traumatic – This is one of the most common forms and usually results after a person has fractured one or more of their vertebrae through an injury.
- Scheuermann’s kyphosis – This form usually develops during adolescence but can progress into adulthood. In this case, the abnormal shape of the vertebrae can lead to a stiff spine.
Whether you are suffering from hyperkyphosis or scoliosis, there are some non-invasive, non-surgical treatments that can help correct the curvature and stabilize the spine. This, in turn, can help improve neurological function and alleviate the pain.
At Scoliosis Care Centers, our goal is to get our patients back to doing what they love. We also believe that finding the best treatment starts by determining the cause of the spine twists and bends. Once we know that, we can begin to help the patient with our safe and effective treatments.
We employ Schroth physical therapy and the Silicon Valley Method as well as several other forms of exercise to help improve posture, minimize pain or discomfort, and get our patients back to their normal lives.
We also understand that everyone’s situation is different, and your spinal problems may be impacted by other health conditions. Through these therapies, we can help individual patients achieve improvements in body appearance, lung capacity, and sitting standing and walking postures.
Of course, continued success requires continued effort, so we also help you learn proper body mechanics to help protect your spine as you go throughout your daily activities.
You don’t have to keep putting up with the pain and discomfort associated with scoliosis or kyphosis. Contact us today and we’ll get started with a detailed evaluation of your situation.