Your doctor will generally conduct a thorough physical examination, including checking your height. You may be asked to bend forward from the waist while your doctor views your spine from the side. Your doctor might also perform a neurological exam to check your reflexes and muscle strength.
After evaluating your signs and symptoms, your doctor may recommend:
- X-rays or CT scans. X-rays can determine the degree of curvature and detect deformities of the vertebrae. A CT scan might be recommended if your doctor wants more-detailed images.
- MRI. These images can detect infection or a tumor in your spine.
- Nerve tests. If you are experiencing numbness or muscle weakness, your doctor may recommend tests to determine how well nerve impulses are traveling between your spinal cord and your extremities.
- Bone density tests. Low-density bone can worsen kyphosis.
Kyphosis treatment depends on the cause and severity of your condition.
Your doctor might suggest medication, including:
- Pain relievers. If over-the-counter medicines — such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) — aren't enough, stronger pain medications are available by prescription.
- Osteoporosis medications. Bone-strengthening medications may help prevent additional spinal fractures that would worsen your kyphosis.
Therapy can help manage certain types of kyphosis. Your doctor might recommend:
- Exercises. Stretching exercises may help improve spinal flexibility and relieve back pain.
- Bracing. Children who have Scheuermann's disease may be able to stop the progression of kyphosis by wearing a body brace while their bones are still growing.
Surgery might be recommended for severe kyphosis that is pinching the spinal cord or nerve roots. Spinal fusion is the most common procedure for reducing the degree of curvature. The surgeon inserts pieces of bone between the vertebrae and then fastens the vertebrae together with metal rods and screws until the spine heals together in a corrected position.
To help you maintain good bone density, your doctor might recommend:
- Eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
- Avoiding tobacco
- Limiting alcohol consumption
Preparing for your appointment
You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of spine disorders (orthopedic surgeon).
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions, such as restricting your diet.
- Write down your symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason you scheduled the appointment.
- Make a list of medications, vitamins and supplements you're taking.
- Write down your key medical information, including other conditions.
- Write down key personal information, including any recent changes or stressors in your life.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
- Ask a relative or friend to accompany you to help you remember what the doctor says.
Questions to ask your doctor
- What tests do I need? Is there any special preparation for them?
- Will I need treatment? What are my options, and what are the benefits and risks of each?
- I have other health problems. How can I best manage these conditions together?
In addition to the questions you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions that occur to you during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may leave time to go over other points in greater detail. You may be asked:
- When did you begin experiencing symptoms? How severe are they?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- What, if anything, seems to improve or worsen your symptoms?