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Kyphosis describes the exaggerated curve of the spine that results in a rounded or hunched back. It may develop for several reasons. Postural kyphosis in children and adolescents may be related to habit and posture rather than underlying spinal deformity. In contrast, structural kyphosis is caused by an abnormality affecting the bones, intervertebral discs, nerves, ligaments or muscles.

In adolescents, structural kyphosis may be caused by initial spine development with a rounded shape that is made worse by further growth. In the elderly, compression fractures characteristically result in loss of height and deformity.

Our Approach to Kyphosis

UCSF is home to one of the largest centers in the country dedicated to evaluating and treating spinal disorders such as kyphosis. Patients have access to the most up-to-date diagnostic imaging techniques as well as innovative treatments that are not widely available. Our team includes world-renowned specialists in neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, neurology, pain management, physical therapy, psychiatry, radiology and rheumatology. These experts work together to personalize a plan for each patient.

Treatment for kyphosis depends on the cause and severity of the deformity. Physical therapy and attention to posture can correct the curvature in some patients. Others require surgery to extend the rounded spine or fuse vertebrae. We are experts in state-of-the-art, minimally invasive techniques such as balloon kyphoplasty, in which surgeons use a small balloon to lift collapsed bone back into position. Our aim is for patients to spend less time under anesthesia, recover more quickly and, ultimately, experience a better quality of life.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • usnews-orthopedics

    One of the nation's best for orthopedic care

Signs & symptoms

The most prominent symptom of kyphosis is a slouching posture or hunchback. Other symptoms include:

  • Back pain
  • Difficulty standing upright or stiffness
  • Fatigue of the back and legs


The diagnosis of kyphosis is based on physical examination of the spine and X-rays. Your doctor may ask you to bend forward so that he or she can evaluate the spine in the position of maximal extension to assess the flexibility of the spine and the structural nature of the deformity.


Treatment depends on the severity of the deformity. In patients with a flexible deformity, physical therapy and attention to posture may result in significant improvement. In patients with rigid deformity of the spine, surgery may be needed.

Surgery for kyphosis involves extending the rounded spine, fusing vertebrae together and using braces to maintain correction. In older patients with kyphosis that is related to compression fractures and osteoporosis, kyphosis may be corrected with a minimally invasive procedure called a balloon kyphoplasty. During this procedure a small balloon is inserted, through a small incision, into the collapsed bone to restore its shape. It is then filled with a substance that hardens and helps the bone expand.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.

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