Kyphosis is an exaggerated, forward rounding of the upper back.

In older people, kyphosis is often due to weakness in the spinal bones that causes them to compress or crack. Other types of kyphosis can appear in infants or teens due to malformation of the spine or wedging of the spinal bones over time.

Mild kyphosis causes few problems. Severe kyphosis can cause pain and be disfiguring. Treatment for kyphosis depends on your age, and the cause and effects of the curvature.

Products & Services


Mild kyphosis may produce no noticeable signs or symptoms. In fact, the upper back naturally has a little kyphosis. People who have excessive curvature may experience back pain and stiffness.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice an increased curve in your upper back or in your child's spine.


The bones (vertebrae) that make up a healthy spine look like cylinders stacked in a column. Kyphosis occurs when the vertebrae in the back become more wedge shaped.

The shape of vertebrae can be changed by:

  • Fractures. Broken vertebrae can result in curvature of the spine. Compression fractures, which can occur in weakened bone, are the most common. Mild compression fractures often don't produce noticeable signs or symptoms.
  • Osteoporosis. Weak bones can cause spinal curvature, especially if weakened vertebrae develop compression fractures. Osteoporosis is most common in older women and people who have taken corticosteroids for long periods of time.
  • Disk degeneration. Soft, circular disks act as cushions between spinal vertebrae. With age, these disks flatten and shrink, which often worsens kyphosis.
  • Scheuermann's disease. Also called Scheuermann's kyphosis, this disease typically begins during the growth spurt that occurs before puberty.
  • Other problems. Spinal bones that don't develop properly before birth can cause kyphosis. Kyphosis in children can also be associated with certain medical conditions, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.


In addition to causing back pain, kyphosis may cause:

  • Limited physical functions. Kyphosis is associated with weakened back muscles and difficulty doing tasks such as walking and getting out of chairs. The spinal curvature can also make it difficult to gaze upward or drive and can cause pain when you lie down.
  • Digestive problems. Severe kyphosis can compress the digestive tract, causing problems such as acid reflux and difficulty with swallowing.
  • Body image problems. People with kyphosis, especially adolescents, may have poor body image from having a rounded back.

Kyphosis care at Mayo Clinic

June 18, 2022
  1. Kado DM. Hyperkyphosis in older persons. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed March 23, 2022.
  2. Kyphosis (roundback) of the spine. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/kyphosis-roundback-of-the-spine. Accessed March 23, 2022.
  3. Frontera WR, et al., eds. Scoliosis and kyphosis. In: Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Elsevier; 2019. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 23, 2022.
  4. Azar FM, et al. Scoliosis and kyphosis. In: Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 14th ed. Elsevier; 2021. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 23, 2022.
  5. Larson AN (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. April 7, 2022.
  6. Ami TR. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic. March 17, 2022.


Associated Procedures

News from Mayo Clinic

Products & Services