Thoracic Kyphosis: The Hump On Your Back

Thoracic Kyphosis: The Hump On Your Back

What Is A Thoracic Kyphosis?

When viewed from side on, your spine is not a straight line but has curves. These curves are referred to as a kyphosis, or lordosis. The spinal curves ideally work together to “cancel” out each other, so that the net result when standing is that we are nicely balanced with our head sitting straight above our hips when viewed from the side. Our spinal curves work to minimize the effect of gravity, allowing us to remain aligned with the head on top of your body and increasing our efficiency when walking, or moving. When labeling the spinal curves, a kyphosis is an outward (convex curve) and is called a kyphosis after the Greek word “kyphos” meaning hump. A lordosis is the opposite of a kyphosis being a concave curve of the spine. In the normal population your thoracic spine (the mid back) should have a kyphosis and your cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (lower back) both have a lordosis. The presence of an excessive thoracic kyphosis where there is exaggerated rounding of the upper back is technically called a hyperkyphosis. In lay terms a hyperkyphosis may be referred to as a: hunchback, humpback, dowager’s hump. However it is more commonly just referred to as a kyphosis, or referenced that the individual has a kyphotic thoracic spine. The severity of any individual kyphosis is measurable, some medical practitioners will put a degree range on the extent of the kyphosis to document if it is in fact a hyperkyphosis and exceeds the normal variation of thoracic curve, but this is not always carried out in medial practice.

Thoracic Kyphosis Postural Curves

Thoracic Kyphosis Symptoms

In the ideal situation the middle back should have a gentle rounding nature to it. A normal mid back kyphosis when viewed from side on should range from around 20° to 40°. If the curvature measures larger than this range then a hyperkyphosis is present. An exaggerated thoracic kyphosis can develop at any age affecting both men and women. Any symptoms and severity can range from mild to severe and depending on the severity this may include:

  • Hunched posture, or stooped posture
  • Reduced vertical height, people may actually appear to shrink in height when a severe mid back kyphosis is present.
  • Back pain and neck pain. Pain may be experienced local to the rounded mid back, or projected to the neck area as the head now shifted forward of the body’s center of gravity has additional strain placed on the structures supporting the head and spine.
  • Fatigue and difficulty maintaining straight upright posture and sometimes individuals when particularly severe will find it difficult to maintain their gaze upwards, or even straight ahead as the rounding forces their head to be angled down towards the floor.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic provides this information as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance on Thoracic Kyphosis: The Hump On Your Back should consult his or her physiotherapist, general practitioner or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.