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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the difference between a scoliosis and a kyphosis?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 10


    Sonia Glanville

    Exercise Physiologist, Massage Therapist

    Scoliosis is a lateral curve of the spine-this may be classified as a C shape or a S shape. This may be due to congenital or acquired reasons. Kyphosis is excessive outward curvature of the spine-causing hunching of the back. This may be due to poor posture or compensatory mechanisms from muscle or nerve damage or collapse of the vertabrae such as in osteoporosis.

  • 4


    Dr Ryan Hislop


    Ryan Hislop is the Clinical Director at the Orange Chiropractic Health and Wellness Centre. As an experienced and evidence-based diagnostician, Ryan works largely by medical … View Profile

    Scoliosis was originally a Greek word meaning curved or bent. Today it is a word used to describe the most common type of spinal curvature. Scoliosis is simply a descriptive term, like headache, and not a precise diagnosis.When a scoliosis develops the spine bends sideways and rotates along its vertical axis. These changes have cosmetic and physiological effects with long-term consequences which may result in significant health problems with severe curves.

    Kyphosis is the name given to the primary curve in your spine that should begin at T1 and end at T12. It is normal to have a kyphosis. If this curve increases to a “slouching” or “hunching” it is defined as hyperkyphosis which is abnormal and can lead to abnormal loading through the vertebral bodies. This may lead to degenerative spinal changes which may impact upon the movement of the spine, the structure and possibly the neurology in the area.

  • 1


    I am a specialist sports physiotherapist with a sub-speciality in adolescents in sport (as awarded bu the Australian College of Physiotherapists in 2007). In addition … View Profile

    Scoliosis and Kyphosis are both terms to describe the shape of the spine and usually (but not always) of the thoracic spine (mid back). 

    Kyphosis is the curve that describes the rounding of the back with the spine rounding outwards (hunching) and is the oppposite of a lordosis which is arching of the spine (bending inwards) and this is usually described at in the cervical (neck) and lumbar (low back) spine.  A certain amount of kyphosis in your thoracic spine is normal - your spine is not perfectly straight and the forward and backward curves help to take all the load the spine carries. Too much kyphosis can be postural, and can be corrected with exercises, or it can structural, which can be changed through exercises.  The two most common causes of structural kyphosis are schuermann's disease and osteoporosis.  Schueramann's presents in early adolescence and effects the vertebral endplates causes a change in shape of the vertebrae, there is often a postural element with scheurmann's which if picked up and managed early, may limited the effect of scheurmanns.  Osteoporosis is generally seen in the aging  population and more commonly in women and can cause compression fractures of the spine, usually the thoracic spine which results in wedging of the vertebra and kyphosis.  There is a critcal window during adolescence in which to lay down your lifetime bone mass, so by ensuring adequate amounts of calcium, weight bearing exercise and maintianing a healthy body weight during adolescence is very important in preventing osteoporosis.

    Scoliosis is a combination of a sideways curve (lateral) and of rotation of the spine.  Scoliosis commonly occurs during early adolescents and is idiopathic in nature, which simply means we do not understand we it occurs in some adolescents and not others. Very simple screening checks can be done by your healthcare practitioner - if identified early, treatment can be started early and a monitoring program can also be started.  Most teenagers with scoloisis are simply monitored closely, especially around growth spurts and maybe given some postural exercises to help, but unfortunately, a few teenagers have a significant scoliosis which requires bracing and sometimes bracing.  The results are generally quite good from bracing and surgery but quite a lot of rehabilitation will be needed along with both of this treatments.

  • 3


    Chirosports Sydney City has been established for over 17 years and is located in the heart of the Sydney CBD. Chirosports Sydney is conveniently located … View Profile

    Scoliosis is a sideways curve of the spine, occuring primarily in adolescents and girls more than boys.  There are several causes of scoliosis, the most common being idiopathic (meaning of unknown origin).  Other common causes include leg length differences causing a compensatory scoliosis in the spine.  Most scolioses are non progressive, but back pain is common.  Simple signs of a scoliosis when looking at someone from behind is a difference in shoulder or hip height, or humping of the ribs on one side of the spine when they bend forward.  It is always worthwhile investigating the scoliosis and undertaking appropriate intervention early.  Flexibility and stability exercises may be of value.

    A kyphosis on the other hand is part of the normal architecture of the thoracic spine (middle back).  An over-pronounced kyphosis (hyper-kyphosis) is not normal and can be caused by several conditions.  This too is worth investigating.  It is not uncommon for these people to suffer with neck and shoulders problems as a result of hyperkyphosis.  While little may be done for the excessive kyphosis (depending on the cause of course), there are many Chiropractic techniques that can help relieve pain and improve the function of the area.

    Chiropractors are well versed in such postural differences/abnormalities.  Find a well regarded local Chiropractor to assist you.

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