Any spinal abnormality can quickly become problematic. Not only does it cause an aesthetic issue, it affects your gait, your posture, and your overall health.
Dr. Patrick McNulty at McNulty Spine in Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada, is one of the nation’s leading spine experts. As an award-winning, double board-certified orthopedic surgeon, he specializes in diagnosing and treating complex spinal issues, including kyphosis — an abnormal forward curvature.
If you or a loved one has severely rounded shoulders or a hunchback appearance, it’s important to come see Dr. McNulty right away for a complete evaluation. In most cases, the problem can be corrected. Here’s what you need to know.
Spinal curves: the good and the bad
Your spine is a complex structure that relies on multiple bones, muscles, soft tissues, and nerves to perform complicated tasks, such as bending and twisting, all while supporting the weight of your frame and protecting your central nervous system.
Viewed from behind, your spine should be stick-straight. If it curves from side to side, you have a condition called scoliosis. On the other hand, your spine from the side view should look quite different. A key part of the spine’s design is its natural S-like curve that begins at the base of your skull and ends at your tailbone.
The top region at your neck (cervical spine) should curve like a backward “C” (this is called lordosis or a lordotic curve). The middle of your back (thoracic spine) should form a proper “C” (called a kyphotic curve). And finally, your lower back (lumbar spine) should mimic the top part and form a lordotic curve again. That’s the ideal, but a few things can go wrong here:
Hunchback: also called kyphosis, this is an exaggerated kyphotic curve in the thoracic region that gives the appearance of a hunched back.
Swayback: an exaggerated lordotic curve in your lumbar spine that makes your abdomen protrude and your back sway inward.
Flatback: kyphosis or loss of lordosis in the lumbar spine that straightens the natural curves and makes it difficult to stand upright.
Military neck: a rigid, straight neck caused by loss of cervical lordosis.
We diagnose the exact problem using imaging tests, such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans in conjunction with a comprehensive physical and neurological exam. Since every human body is unique, there’s a wide range of “normal” when it comes to spinal curvatures (20-40 degrees), but if your curves fall outside that acceptable range (40+ degrees), it indicates a problem.
Correcting kyphosis and loss of lordosis
Fortunately, Dr. McNulty is highly experienced in treating all types of spinal conditions, including hunchback, swayback, flatback, and military neck. But before he develops a treatment plan, it’s important to identify the root cause of your condition. There are several potential culprits that can alter the natural curves in your spine, including:
- Poor posture
- Vertebral fractures
- Degenerative disc disease
- Scheuermann’s disease
Treating the primary cause of kyphosis is the first step in slowing or stopping the progression, so Dr. McNulty can then address correcting the condition with one or more of the following options.
If you have osteoporosis, Dr. McNulty may suggest a diet change that increases your calcium and vitamin D levels.
Because kyphosis can be painful, anti-inflammatories and pain relievers may decrease discomfort as you work toward rehabilitation. Hormone replacement therapy may also benefit those with osteoporosis.
Exercise is a critical component of kyphosis treatment, but incorrect form can cause more harm than good. We can help you learn proper mechanics, beneficial stretches, and correct posture that will counteract kyphosis.
Bracing won’t likely cure your kyphosis, but it adds much-needed support and provides pain relief.
If your kyphosis causes chronic pain or continues to progress despite conservative measures, Dr. McNulty may recommend surgical intervention. If necessary, he performs spinal fusion to restore the natural curvature and stabilize your spine.
Why you shouldn’t ignore kyphosis
If your kyphosis is mild and relatively asymptomatic, it’s tempting to disregard it. But if it progresses (or has already advanced), it can lead to a slew of health problems, including:
- Severe pain
- Reduced range of motion
- Heart problems
- Difficulty breathing
- Bladder and bowel issues
- Excess pressure on the spinal cord
- Lower extremity weakness
Don’t wait to see Dr. McNulty for a complete spinal evaluation; in many cases, the fix is noninvasive and can help you avoid some serious complications down the line. To schedule an appointment, book one online or call us at either location in Henderson or Las Vegas today.