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Children's Health System - Alabama

Children's of Alabama
Healthcare as amazing as their potential
1600 7th Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35233
(205) 638 - 9100

Postural Kyphosis

What Is Postural Kyphosis?

Postural kyphosis (kye-FOH-sis) is a rounding or hunching of the back that usually affects teens.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Postural Kyphosis?

Teens with postural kyphosis have a smooth, round shape of the upper back. It can look like a hunched back. It usually isn't painful.

Unlike with other types of kyphosis, someone with postural kyphosis can straighten the spine when asked to stand up straight.

What Causes Postural Kyphosis?

Postural kyphosis happens when someone slouches a lot. This "bad" posture makes the back muscles and the bones in the spine get used to that position. After a while, the back stays in a rounded or hunched shape.

Who Gets Postural Kyphosis?

Postural kyphosis is most common in teenage girls, though boys can get it too.

How Is Postural Kyphosis Diagnosed?

A doctor will examine the spine while the child:

  • bends forward from the waist
  • is lying down flat

X-rays of the spine sometimes can help confirm the diagnosis.

Pulmonary (lung) function tests can help if the doctor is concerned that the kyphosis is affecting breathing. The doctor might order an MRI scan of the back if he or she thinks something else could be causing the problem, such as an infection or tumor. But these types of tests are rarely needed for postural kyphosis.

How Is Postural Kyphosis Treated?

Physical therapy can help to improve posture. Exercises can strengthen the back muscles to help them better support the spine. Sleeping on a firm bed can help some people too.

Sometime the doctor will refer kids to an orthopedist (a doctor who treats conditions involving the bones). The orthopedist will examine the spine to see the cause and extent of the kyphosis and then recommend treatment.

Looking Ahead

Postural kyphosis doesn't get worse, especially after a teen is done growing. Learning better posture and strengthening the back muscles will prevent problems with posture later in life. If you notice your child has a rounded back and a hunched posture, talk to your doctor.

Reviewed by: Suken A. Shah, MD and Alicia McCarthy, APRN
Date reviewed: January 2019