Why does kyphosis cause breathing difficulties

Scoliosis or kyphosis

Causes & Symptoms

What is scoliosis?

A curvature of the spine with a twist when viewed from the front or back (scoliosis) often occurs in childhood or adolescence. This leads to a lateral bending of one or more sections of the spine. You can see this clearly if you look at the back from behind. The vertebrae twist around their own axis. Often there is also a deviation from the normal profile of the corresponding spinal column sections when viewed from the side. Scoliosis can occur in the chest or lumbar spine area. But it can also develop in both areas or in their transition area. Scoliosis can never be fully straightened up, either actively or passively. In the advanced stage, the affected section becomes increasingly stiff.

Often the scoliosis occurs together with the kyphosis ("hunchback"). This is a lateral bending of the cervical, thoracic or lumbar spine. However, the entire spine can also be affected.

Causes: How does scoliosis or kyphosis develop?

There are two types of scoliosis: the so-called idiopathic form, in which the cause is unknown, and scoliosis due to a known underlying disease. These include, for example, congenital malformations of the vertebrae and diseases of muscles or nerves. Diseases of the connective tissue or metabolism can also play a role. In most cases, however, it is idiopathic scoliosis. It develops in childhood and adolescence and usually progresses through puberty.

Kyphosis can also be congenital. It can also occur after trauma, surgery, or a tumor. Bad posture and diseases such as Scheuermann's disease, osteoporosis or chronic joint inflammation can also cause kyphosis.

Scoliosis symptoms or kyphosis symptoms: Signs that indicate a disease

Apart from the deformation of the spine, there is not always clear evidence of a disease. Scoliosis in children usually causes physical complaints only in rare cases. An exception is, for example, a measurable reduction in lung function due to severe curvature.

In the further course, the deformation and asymmetry of the trunk often lead to psychological or psychosocial stress because the patients are ashamed of their appearance.

In adulthood, the permanent misalignment and incorrect loading then lead to increased back pain. The spine partially stiffens in the area of ​​the bends, so that movement is restricted.

Severe scoliosis in adults causes deformation and shortening of the trunk and thus a reduction in the size of the chest and abdomen. Internal organs such as the lungs, heart or abdominal organs can be noticeably impaired. Often times, patients complain of shortness of breath or even heart problems.

Kyphosis does not necessarily lead to symptoms. However, some patients suffer from pain in the area of ​​the crooked thoracic spine. It can also cause breathing difficulties, cardiovascular problems or numbness in the arms or legs. The bladder or bowel function can also be disturbed. Movement restrictions occur and sleep disorders are also possible. If a hump forms as a result of kyphosis, problems in adjacent areas of the spine, accelerated wear and tear of the affected vertebral segments, and discomfort and functional problems can occur. In the case of pronounced kyphosis, the loss of the line of sight, swallowing problems and sometimes even neurological failures represent, in addition to the cosmetic aspects, a reduction in the quality of life for the patient. There is a risk when the constant pressure on the spinal cord causes chronic remodeling processes and ultimately nerve damage in the kyphosis area . If left untreated, the latter can lead to functional failures and paralysis.


Suspected scoliosis or kyphosis? Our targeted diagnostics provide information

In the early stages of scoliosis or kyphosis, only a few people have physical symptoms. The disease often only occurs at the beginning or during puberty. Nevertheless, it is important to know the onset of scoliosis or kyphosis, because: The earlier idiopathic scoliosis or kyphosis occurs in childhood or adolescence, the more the malgrowth can progress during puberty.

Medical history and physical exam

As a rule, such a misalignment of the spine can be recognized by simply looking at the spine, even if it is already minor. After a detailed query of your medical history, our specialists will carry out a physical examination. We check the extent of the sideways curvature and, above all, the hump, as well as the extent of the twist, as well as the shoulder and pelvic stance. We also examine whether the spine is perpendicular. We also assess whether there is a deviation from the normal profile in the side view. Often there is also a pronounced flat back.

Investigation of the causes: Various methods can provide information

For all forms of scoliosis or kyphosis, we do what is known as the preventive test. The standing patient bends forward with his upper body bare. When viewed from behind, we can determine how far the ribs bulge backwards on the convex side of the curvature (rib hump) or a so-called lumbar bulge has formed in the lumbar vertebra area. The lumbar bulge also describes a bulging of the back muscles on the convex side of a lumbar spine scoliosis.

When we diagnose scoliosis or kyphosis, we take x-rays of the entire spine. The patient stands during the X-ray. The pictures give us further information about the form, extent and possible causes of the disease. The severity of the curvature or bending can also be measured using the X-ray image. We use a special angle measurement method for this.

We perform magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) before all operations. Especially with congenital malformations of the spine, the risk of malformations in the spinal canal and spinal cord is increased. Suspicious areas may need to be examined more closely using computed tomography (CT).

Especially with more severe forms of scoliosis or kyphosis and before an operation, it is also important to examine the lung function more closely.