Hyperkyphosis in Seniors and the Elderly

Hyperkyphosis is a condition in which the thoracic spinal curve is excessively angled. The risk of hyperkyphosis increases with age, and it is more common in elderly adults.

Hyperkyphosis is described as a hunchback type posture of the mid-back.

Male doctor explaining the spine to senior patient
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Types of Hyperkyphosis

Kyphosis is abnormal spine curvature. Hyperkyphosis is a type of kyphosis.

The most common type of kyphosis, postural kyphosis, develops due to chronic body positioning, such as when you round your shoulders and upper back day in and day out. This is the kind of kyphosis that arises from things like prolonged computer work.

Scheuermann’s Disease is a genetic condition. The first signs of this condition generally affect adolescent boys.

Age-related hyperkyphosis affects the elderly— to the tune of 20 to 40 percent of people in this age bracket, according to a study published in the December 2009 issue of the European Journal of Physical Rehabilitation Medicine. Age-related hyperkyphosis can be postural, but it can also be a result of vertebral compression fracture—an injury that is associated with osteoporosis and osteopenia.

Kado, in the article entitled, "The rehabilitation of hyperkyphotic posture in the elderly," published in the European Journal of Physical Rehabilitation Medicine, suggests that about 1/3 of the most hyperkyphotic people have underlying vertebral fractures.

Treatment

Hyperkyphosis is a cosmetic issue. But it may also decrease your physical functioning, affect your lungs, and/or increase your risk of falls and fractures. It may even contribute to an early death, Kado says.

If you or a loved one is “at that age,” and you believe that hyperkyphosis is something you have to live with, think again. Kado says that non-surgical treatments like exercise and back braces can be beneficial for people with hyperkyphosis.

And Bansal, et. al. in their review, “Exercise for improving age-related hyperkyphotic posture: a systematic review,” which was published in the January 2014 issue of the journal Archives of Physical Medicine Rehabilitation, found that high-quality studies showed positive effects of exercise on hyperkyphotic posture, suggesting that such programs have benefits and possibly a role to play in managing this condition in people over the age of 45.

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