Hyperkyphosis in Seniors and the Elderly

An osteoporotic spine with kyphosis.
An osteoporotic spine with kyphosis. Science Photo Library/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Hyperkyphosis in Seniors and the Elderly - Are There Treatments?

As we age, we run the risk of hyperkyphosis.  

What is hyperkyphosis, you ask?  It’s a medical term that refers to a thoracic spinal curve, that when measured, has exceeded normal;  in other words, hyperkyphosis denotes an excessive angle of the curve in your mid back. 

From a non-medical perspective,  hyperkyphosis is that hunchback type posture you may see in (some) elderly people, or, in many who sit at the computer for long hours every day.

 

Related: 5 Causes of a Military Neck (or Even a Reversed Curve)

Types of Hyperkyphosis

There are different types of excessive kyphosis.  The most common is called postural kyphosis, where, as the name suggests, the way you use your body, day in and day out, (which includes how you position yourself) leads to rounded shoulders and upper back.  This is the kind of kyphosis that arises from too much computer work (as well as other things.)  Another type called Scheuermann’s Disease or Scheuermann’s Kyphosis is a genetic condition that sometimes first presents itself in adolescent boys.

Hyperkyphosis also occurs in the elderly population – 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.  Hyperkyphosis in elderly people may be postural, but it can also be a result of vertebral compression fracture – an injury that is associated with osteoporosis and osteopenia.

 

Scientists and medical doctors call this type of kyphosis “age-relatedage related hyperkyphosis.”

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.

 

Age-Related Hyperkyphosis Treatments

As a deformity, hyperkyphosis presents, of course, a cosmetic issue.  But it may also decrease your physical functioning, compromise the work of your lungs and/or increase your risks for falls and fractures.  It may even contribute to an early death, Kado says.

Related: Cervical and Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

If you or a loved one is “at that age,” and you believe that hyperkyphosis is something you have to live with, think again.  A number of research studies suggest that positive benefits can be had for exercise especially, and possibly for other types of non-surgical therapies, as well.

As far as which non-surgical treatments may be the most helpful for age-related hyperkyphosis, Kado says (as mentioned above) exercise, as well as back braces (called spinal orthoses) are among those showing the most  promise.

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 using exercise for hyperkyphotic posture, suggesting that such programs have benefit and possibly a role to play in managing this condition in people over the age of 45.

Sources:

Kado, D. The rehabilitation of hyperkyphotic posture in the elderly. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. Dec 2009.

Bansal, S., Katzamn, W., Giangregorio, L. Exercise for improving age-related hyperkyphotic posture: a systematic review. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. Jan. 2014.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23850611

Continue Reading