Bone, Joint and Muscle Conditions


What Is Kyphosis?

Patterns of sagittal deformity. Normal (green), Scheuermann kyphosis (red); hyperlordosis secondard to hip flexion contracture (blue); flat back (yellow); and thoracic lordosis (brown) with pulmonary compromise. Courtesy of 'Fundamentals of Pediatric Orthopedics,' © 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

Kyphosis is the forward curve in the middle of the spine, near the ribs. Here, the spine curves slightly outward, giving the back a gently rounded look. The normal range for this curve is 20 degrees to 50 degrees.

While some rounding is normal, doctors use the term kyphosis to refer to curves that are out of the usual range. You may also hear doctors call this hyper-kyphosis.

There are several types of kyphosis:


Hyper-kyphosis is an excessive roundness or a hump in the middle of the back.

Many teenagers slouch and look like they might have a hump, but this is not hyper-kyphosis. If you ask them to stand up straight, the hump may disappear. Some doctors call this slouching "postural roundback".

Poor posture often worries parents, but it has not been shown to lead to any permanent back deformity.

Scheuermann kyphosis

In some rare cases, the bones of the back (vertebrae) do not grow correctly. In Scheuermann kyphosis, the front part of the vertebrae does not grow as well as the back part.

As your child approaches the teenage years, their back may become more curved and humped. Because the spine grows fast during these years, the vertebrae's uneven growth can quickly lead to a deformity. The deformity, however, is rarely bad enough to require surgery.

Congenital kyphosis

Babies can be born with kyphosis. When the condition is present at birth (congenital), the bones in the back are shaped like wedges instead of the normal, round block shape. This may cause the spine to bend sharply.

In serious cases, the sharp bend in the spine can press on the spinal cord and cause paralysis of the legs. Young children or babies with congenital scoliosis have a higher risk of developing spinal cord problems.

Kyphosis in Children

Both boys and girls get kyphosis. Postural kyphosis (roundback) is a mild curve that is more common in girls than in boys. Scheuermann kyphosis is about twice as common in boys as it is in girls.

While babies can be born with kyphosis (congenital kyphosis), other forms of the problem often appear as children approach their teenage years.

Kyphosis is much less common than scoliosis.

Kyphosis at Seattle Children's

Our Spine Program is known nationally for treating all kinds of spinal deformities in children. We have treated hundreds of children with kyphosis.

Children with congenital kyphosis who have surgery have a chance of developing problems with their nervous systems. As a result, we make sure an experienced team of doctors specializing in the nervous system manages their care.