Can Kyphosis Be a Symptom of Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Kyphosis is a term for the rounding of the upper spine. Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of inflammatory disease that leads to spinal bone fusion. Because of the effects of this condition, a symptom of ankylosing spondylitis can be kyphosis.

This article discusses the connection between ankylosing spondylitis and kyphosis and the treatment options associated with the symptom.

Man with back pain

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What Is Kyphosis?

Kyphosis is the medical term for a curved spine. The spine in kyphosis curves forward, causing the head to sit too far forward from the shoulders. Because of how the spine curves and where the head sits, kyphosis leads to an exaggerated hump-like appearance of the upper back.

People with kyphosis may also have:

  • Muscle impairment
  • An increased risk of falls due to an altered center of gravity
  • A change in how a person walks
  • Limited physical function
  • Back pain

Severe Complications of Kyphosis

Compression of the digestive tract, airways, and nerves can occur in people with severe kyphosis. When that happens, a person must seek emergency care and will likely require surgery. Signs that kyphosis requires emergency care include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent pain
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs and arms
  • Loss of balance
  • No or low bladder or bowel control

Is Kyphosis a Symptom of Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is caused by chronic inflammation of the joints that sit in the upper part of the spine. The inflammation damages the joints and vertebrae in that area. A person with ankylosing spondylitis can develop kyphosis because of that inflammation and damage.

The condition causes other issues with the spine and joints, so kyphosis is one of many symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis.

Kyphosis in ankylosing spondylitis can also develop because:

  • The condition reduces spinal flexibility because of stiffness, causing it to curve forward and stay there.
  • Lesions known as Andersson lesions develop and destroy vertebrae, causing damage to the spine and its ability to stay upright.
  • Ankylosing can cause spinal fractures that lead to a weakened spine over time and eventually a collapse. When that happens, the spine may curve forward. 

Can You Have Ankylosing Spondylitis and Not Develop Kyphosis?

Not everyone with ankylosing spondylitis develops kyphosis. According to older research published in 2006, roughly half of the people with the condition will develop a curved spine. Though anyone can be subject to kyphosis, it is more likely to occur in older men.

Treatments and Management of Kyphosis

In people with ankylosing spondylitis and severe kyphosis, surgery is often the first-line treatment. Various types of surgeries may be used, such as:

  • Smith-Peterson osteotomy (SPO): This surgery involves opening up the area of the spine affected by the condition and removing damaged tissue or bone.
  • Pedicle subtraction osteotomy (PSO): This surgery entails the removal of pedicle tissue, or the tissue that connects one part of the body to the other. Rods are placed into the body to hold it in place while a surgeon fixes the spine manually.
  • Vertebral column resection (VCR): Vertebrae are removed, and the spine is realigned during this surgery.
  • Polysegmental osteotomy (PO): This surgery involves removing the back portion of vertebrae. The deformed areas of the spine are purposely fractured so they can be set and healed in an upright position.

In some less severe cases, kyphosis may be treated using a spinal corrective brace to hold the spine upright before it worsens. The brace is often reserved for mild cases or children with juvenile ankylosing spondylitis.

Are There Medications for Kyphosis Caused by Ankylosing Spondylitis?

There is no medication available to correct kyphosis once it has developed. However, in less severe cases, medicines such as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, corticosteroids, and biologics can help quell inflammation to halt or slow the progression of the disease. This helps stop kyphosis from getting worse.  

When to See Your Healthcare Provider

Your healthcare provider should investigate any symptoms that compromise your daily life. Because ankylosing spondylitis is a progressive disease and kyphosis can worsen over time, it’s best to seek medical attention at the first sign of kyphosis symptoms. That way, the spinal curve can be addressed early, and the risk of more severe complications can be reduced.


Ankylosing spondylitis is a progressive and inflammatory condition that can lead to a forward curve of the spine, known as kyphosis. Kyphosis doesn’t always come with severe symptoms, but it can lead to a decreased range of motion and persistent pain.

In adults, the treatment of choice for kyphosis caused by ankylosing spondylitis is surgery. There are various surgeries, all of which will be chosen on a case-by-case basis. In children with juvenile ankylosing spondylitis and kyphosis, other forms of therapy may be carried out first, such as a brace or other spinal device because their spine is still growing and can be more easily corrected.

Kyphosis caused by ankylosing spondylitis can severely decrease a person’s quality of life, so it’s essential to speak to a healthcare provider at the first sign of spinal curvature.

A Word From Verywell

Having a forward-curved spine is problematic because it can lead to many other health issues due to how it compresses other areas of the body. Contact your healthcare provider if you have ankylosing spondylitis and notice the curve of your spine is beginning to shift.

They will help develop a treatment plan with you to avoid a more severe kyphosis. Alternatively, if you already have the curve, treatment options are available that can help restore the proper curvature of your spine and correct posture.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What happens if kyphosis is left untreated?

    Kyphosis often needs treatment because it will continue to worsen. If a person has kyphosis but does not get treatment, they may have to cope with a severe spinal deformity that causes other health problems. When the spine curves forward, it can compress the airways, nerves, and gastrointestinal tract, leading to other health issues.

  • Does everyone with ankylosing spondylitis have kyphosis?

    Kyphosis often develops in ankylosing spondylitis because of how the disease affects the spine. However, not everyone with the condition will develop a forward curvature. Roughly 49% of people with ankylosing spondylitis have kyphosis as well.

  • Can you reverse kyphosis?

    Kyphosis can be reversed. However, it is often treated using surgery. When the spine curves forward, getting it back to its original placement without surgical intervention may prove difficult.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Angelica Bottaro
Angelica Bottaro is a professional freelance writer with over 5 years of experience. She has been educated in both psychology and journalism, and her dual education has given her the research and writing skills needed to deliver sound and engaging content in the health space.