Cervical kyphosis is a condition that affects the curvature of the cervical spine, which is the portion of the spine that is located in the neck. Normally, the cervical spine has a natural curve that is slightly concave, but in cervical kyphosis, this curve becomes more pronounced and moves in the opposite direction, creating a hump-like appearance in the upper back and neck.
Cervical kyphosis can occur for a variety of reasons, including degenerative changes in the spine due to aging, developmental disorders, trauma or injury to the spine, or as a result of poor posture.
What are the symptoms of cervical kyphosis?
The symptoms of cervical kyphosis can vary depending on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. Some people may not experience any symptoms at all, while others may experience a range of symptoms, including:
- Decreased range of motion in the head and neck – The abnormal curvature of the spine can lead to compression of the nerves and soft tissues in the neck, which can result in stiffness and limited mobility. This can make it difficult to turn your head, look up or down, or perform other everyday activities that require neck movement. Additionally, the muscles and ligaments in the neck can become tight and tense as they try to compensate for the changes in the spine, further limiting range of motion. Over time, this can lead to a progressive loss of flexibility and function in the neck, making it harder to perform even basic tasks like reaching for objects or lifting your head.
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) – Dysphagia refers to difficulty or discomfort when swallowing. In cervical kyphosis, the abnormal curvature of the spine can cause compression or irritation of the nerves that control the muscles involved in swallowing. This can lead to a range of symptoms including pain when swallowing, feeling like food or liquids are getting stuck in the throat or chest, choking, or coughing during or after swallowing and a sensation of regurgitation or reflux after eating or drinking.
- Headache – Cervical kyphosis can result in tension and strain on the muscles, ligaments, and nerves within the neck and upper back. This tension can trigger headaches, particularly tension headaches, which are the most common type of headache. Cervical kyphosis can also cause cervicogenic headaches, which are headaches that originate in the neck and are often felt at the base of the skull or behind the eyes. These headaches can be triggered by movement or certain positions of the head and neck and are often accompanied by pain and stiffness.
- An abnormal curve – The natural curve of the neck, which is a gentle C-shaped curve that allows for proper support and movement of the head, becomes exaggerated or reversed in a person suffering from kyphosis. The severity of the curvature can vary depending on the underlying cause and how long the condition has been present.
- Instability when walking – Cervical kyphosis can cause instability while walking through several mechanisms. The abnormal curvature of the spine can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, which can affect the function of the legs, leading to difficulty with balance and walking. The alignment of the head and neck can also be affected, causing changes in the distribution of weight and pressure on the feet and legs while standing or walking.
- Loss of fine motor function in your hands – The nerves that control fine motor movements in the hands and fingers arise from the cervical spine. When the spinal cord or nerves are compressed or damaged due to cervical kyphosis, the transmission of signals from the brain to the muscles in the hands and fingers may be disrupted, leading to weakness, numbness, or tingling sensations. This can result in difficulty with fine motor movements such as writing, typing, or manipulating small objects.
- Muscle weakness in your shoulders, arms or hands – The cervical spine is where the nerves controlling the muscles in the shoulders, arms, and hands originate. If cervical kyphosis occurs and the spinal cord or nerves become compressed or damaged, communication between the brain and these muscles may be disrupted, which can result in sensations of weakness, numbness, or tingling.
- Poor urinary or fecal control – Cervical kyphosis can cause compression or damage to the spinal cord or nerves in the cervical spine, which can interfere with the communication between the brain and the muscles responsible for bladder and bowel control. This can manifest as urinary or fecal incontinence, or difficulty in initiating or completing urination or bowel movements.
Treatment of Kyphosis
The treatment of cervical kyphosis depends on the severity of the condition, the degree of curvature of the spine, and the presence of any associated symptoms. It’s important to consult with your doctor before proceeding with any of the following treatment options.
There are several surgical procedures that may be used to treat cervical kyphosis, depending on the severity of the condition and the specific anatomical factors involved. Some of the common surgical procedures used to treat cervical kyphosis include:
- Decompression surgery: This involves removing the bony or soft tissue structures that are compressing the spinal cord or nerves in the cervical spine.
- Fusion surgery: This involves fusing two or more vertebrae in the neck together using bone grafts, screws, and plates to stabilize the spine and prevent further curvature.
- Osteotomy: This is a complex surgical procedure that involves cutting and realigning the bones in the neck to correct the curvature and restore normal alignment.
- Disc replacement surgery: This involves removing a damaged or degenerated spinal disc in the neck and replacing it with an artificial disc to restore normal function.
The choice of surgical procedure will depend on various factors such as the severity of the curvature, the location and extent of nerve compression, and the presence of any other underlying medical conditions. Your doctor will be able to determine the most appropriate surgical approach based on a thorough evaluation of your condition.
Cervical traction is a therapeutic technique used to stretch and realign the cervical spine (neck) by applying a pulling force to the head and neck. During cervical traction, the patient lies on a traction table or bed with their head secured to a harness or strap. A pulling force is then applied to the head and neck using weights, pulleys, or an electronic motor. The force applied can be either static or intermittent and is usually gentle and gradual to avoid causing further injury or discomfort.
Cervical traction can help to decompress the cervical spine and relieve pressure on the nerve roots and soft tissues in the neck. This can improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and promote healing of damaged tissues. Cervical traction may also help to improve range of motion, reduce muscle tension, and alleviate symptoms such as neck pain, headaches, and arm pain.
Cervical traction is typically performed under the guidance of a trained healthcare professional such as a physical therapist, chiropractor, or physician. It is important to consult with your doctor before starting any new treatment to determine if cervical traction is appropriate for your condition.
Exercise can be an effective non-surgical treatment option for cervical kyphosis. Exercise helps to strengthen the muscles and improve flexibility in the neck and upper back, which can help to reduce pain, improve posture, and correct spinal alignment.
Specific exercises that may be recommended for cervical kyphosis include neck stretches, chin tucks, and shoulder blade squeezes. These exercises help to improve range of motion, reduce muscle tension, and improve alignment of the cervical spine.
In addition to specific exercises, a comprehensive exercise program may include aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, to improve overall fitness and cardiovascular health. Strengthening exercises for the upper back, shoulders, and arms may also be included to help support the neck and improve posture.
Remember to consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program, as they can help to develop a safe and effective exercise program tailored to your individual needs and limitations.
Bracing may be recommended as a treatment for cervical kyphosis in certain cases. The goal of bracing is to support the spine and improve spinal alignment, which can help to reduce pain, prevent further curvature, and maintain function.
The type of brace used for cervical kyphosis depends on the severity and location of the curvature. Soft collars may be recommended for mild cases of cervical kyphosis, while more rigid braces may be needed for more severe cases. These braces are typically made of lightweight, durable materials and are designed to fit snugly around the neck and upper back to provide support and promote proper alignment of the spine.
Bracing is usually combined with other treatment options, such as exercise or physical therapy, to improve muscle strength and flexibility, and to promote healing. The duration of bracing varies depending on the severity of the condition and the response to treatment.
It’s important to consult with your doctor before using a cervical brace, as improper use or fit can cause further injury or discomfort. A physical therapist or other healthcare provider can help to determine if bracing is appropriate for your condition and provide guidance on proper use and maintenance of the brace.