Kyphoscoliosis is an abnormal curve of the spine on two planes: the coronal plane, or side to side, and the sagittal plane, or back to front. It’s a combined spinal abnormality of two other conditions: kyphosis and scoliosis.
Scoliosis causes the spine to curve abnormally on the coronal plane, meaning it twists sideways. Kyphosis causes the spine to curve abnormally on the sagittal plane, meaning it twists forward or backward, giving the back a rounded or hunched appearance.
People with kyphoscoliosis have a spine that curves both to the side and forward or backward at the same time.
This condition can occur at any age, including at birth. According to a case report about the condition, 80 percent of cases are idiopathic. This means there’s no known cause of the condition.
Symptoms of kyphoscoliosis vary. Sometimes people with the condition may only have an abnormal hunch or slouch. In more severe cases, there can be negative effects on the lungs and heart. The muscles may not be able to function properly for day-to-day activities.
Many cases of this condition have no known cause. In other cases, this spinal condition is the result of:
- Prolonged bad posture. Poor posture over time may result in postural kyphoscoliosis. It can be treated with extensive physical therapy.
- Osteochondrodysplasia. This is a type of skeletal dysplasia, a condition that impairs the growth of spinal bones, cartilage, and connective tissue.
- Degenerative diseases. Examples include osteoporosis and osteoarthritis (OA).
- Neuromuscular diseases. These can include cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy.
- Connective tissue diseases. These could include Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Marfan syndrome.
- Tuberculosis (TB). TB can weaken the spine. TB is now a rare condition.
People 50 years of age and older are likely to develop this spinal abnormality if degenerative diseases like OA are already present.
Other causes can be categorized as secondary, or congenital. These causes may include:
- degenerative changes
- overuse injuries
- changes after surgery
- inflammatory disease
- congenital sources such as malformation or segmentation of the spine before birth
Functional causes like prolonged bad posture are typically reversible, whereas structural causes are typically irreversible.
The most obvious physical symptom of kyphoscoliosis is a hunched or uneven back. This spinal condition comes with a number of other mild symptoms, including:
- hunched back
- uneven shoulder blades
- arms or legs longer on one side
In more severe cases, kyphoscoliosis can affect the lungs, nerves, and other organs. More severe symptoms include:
- back pain
- trouble breathing
- weakness or paralysis
- decreased appetite
- neurological issues
- heart issues
Treatment for spine abnormalities can vary depending on:
- severity of the spine curvature
- ability to maintain a healthy posture
- other medical conditions
- impact on day-to-day routines
There are many noninvasive treatment methods for kyphoscoliosis. If these don’t work, however, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Early detection of spine problems is key to preventing your condition from getting worse. It’s common for children to develop minor spine curvatures, which may never need treatment or will go away with age.
Still, it’s important to have regular medical checkups to monitor the spine for changes. Treatment will vary from one person to the next based on the severity of their condition.
2. Scoliosis bracing
As an alternative to surgery, doctors may recommend using a back brace. Bracing isn’t an effective treatment method for adults whose bones have stopped growing.
It’s important to note that bracing won’t cure scoliosis or kyphoscoliosis. It can help prevent any future damage, though. Braces are typically worn throughout the day. They become more effective as they’re worn more frequently.
3. Pain management
Spinal abnormalities and any other back injury can cause extensive discomfort, stiffness, and can impact day-to-day activities. Doctors may recommend cortisone injections and other pain medication to help provide temporary relief.
However, these medications can have side effects if used too frequently. For that reason, injections are only provided once or twice a year for acute pain situations.
Note that this kind of treatment isn’t a cure for the curvature of scoliosis. Look for a chiropractor who specializes in scoliosis to avoid making the condition worse.
4. Physical therapy
Active physical therapy involves exercises that increase spine strength and flexibility. The most effective treatment involves exercises meant to improve the spine’s range of motion and balance.
If you have severe kyphoscoliosis, doctors may recommend surgical correction. While it may not be able to cure spinal abnormalities, spinal surgery can help prevent the condition from progressing and causing any additional harm.
A common surgical option is a spinal fusion. It’s a procedure that connects bones in the spine together with metal rods or screws to prevent independent movement. This allows old and new spinal material to form together.
Doctors can also install an adjustable rod. This is an option recommended for younger people who haven’t finished growing. This rod can be adjusted every 6 months to match the length of the spine.
As with any surgery, there are complications. They can include:
- nerve damage
- inability to heal
- excessive bleeding
Talk with your doctor about the risks of complications for your particular surgery and disease because every case is different.
It’s important to see your doctor if you notice symptoms of kyphoscoliosis. Early detection and treatment are key to recovery.
Living with any type of scoliosis can be difficult. You may find a scoliosis support group helpful. Check with your healthcare provider for recommendations, or you can search online.