Last updated: 04 October 2011
Kyphosis is an abnormal outward curving of the upper spine. It causes the back to appear more rounded than usual and may cause stiffness and back pain.
Normally, when looked at from the side, your upper spine curves only slightly outwards and your lower spine very slightly inwards.
If your spine bends to the left or right, it is known as scoliosis. Kyphosis and scoliosis can occur together.
Kyphosis can affect anyone and is often caused by bad posture or a structural problem with the spine. It is rare to be born with kyphosis.
Examples of structural problems are fractures to the vertebrae (back bones), which may be caused by osteoporosis, or a spine that has simply grown abnormally (see Causes).
Can it be treated?
Treatment of kyphosis depends on the cause and whether there are any symptoms, although it is often not necessary. Kyphosis caused by poor posture will get better on its own with time. Mild cases of kyphosis may need to be treated with back braces and physiotherapy.
More severe cases of kyphosis may need corrective surgery (see Treatment, for more information).
Continue to next section: Symptoms of kyphosis