Scheuermann’s kyphosis (Scheuermann’s disease) — overview and treatment

Scheuermann’s kyphosis, or Scheuermann’s disease, is the exaggerated curvature of the upper portion of the spine (thoracic spine). This is commonly referred to as a “hunchback” and is often found in teenagers and younger adults who are still undergoing years of growth. While most cases of Scheuermann’s disease do not cause pain, some more advanced cases of this disease can result in compressed nerve pain due to the abnormal formation of the vertebrae in the thoracic spine (upper back).

If you have been diagnosed with Scheuermann’s disease and have not yet completed your spinal growth, you may find treatment options that can correct the curvature of your spine. However, if you are diagnosed with Scheuermann’s disease after you have completed your spinal growth, you may find treatment options to relieve the pain but you will not be able to readjust your spine without invasive surgery. To learn about the causes, symptoms and treatments options for this condition, read the following article.

Causes and symptoms of Scheuermann’s disease

The cause of Scheuermann’s disease is still unknown, though researchers have found that it is due to an abnormality in the vertebrae of the spine. Essentially, during the adolescent period when the spine is still growing, the front part of the vertebra stops growing altogether. The back part of the same vertebra continues to grow, resulting in a natural curvature of the vertebra that should be relatively straight. The normal curve allowance for vertebrae is between 20 degrees and 50 degrees. Anything curved more than 50 degrees is the sign of a spine condition, including Scheuermann’s disease.

Patients with Scheuermann’s kyphosis typically do not experience symptoms other than the curvature of the spine. However, some severe cases of Scheuermann’s disease may result in pain from nerve compression. There are several nerve roots in the spinal cord that send signals to the extremities. If one of those nerve roots is compressed from an abnormally shaped vertebra caused by Scheuermann’s disease, the patient might experience local pain at the site of the nerve root and radiating pain through the connected extremity.

Treatment options for Scheuermann’s kyphosis

For patients diagnosed with Scheuermann’s disease who are not yet finished growing, a brace may to worn to help correct the abnormal curvature of the spine. This brace is called a Milwaukee brace and aims to restore the height and increase growth in the front of the vertebra to even out the curvature of the spine. This brace may be prescribed for one to two years, depending on the severity of the condition and the age of the patient.

If you have been diagnosed with Scheuermann’s disease and you are past the age of spinal growth, there is no treatment that can fix the appearance of your spine other than highly invasive surgery, which is not performed at Laser Spine Institute. These traditional open spine procedures use rods, bars, wires or screws to hold the spine straight during the fusion process, often resulting in a high risk of infection and complication as well as a lengthy recovery period.

However, if you are experiencing accompanying foraminal compression due to Scheuermann’s disease, our board-certified+ surgeons can perform a minimally invasive decompression or stabilization procedure to relieve the source of compression. To find out if you are a potential candidate for our minimally invasive procedures, ask our team for a free MRI review.* Our procedures are performed on an outpatient basis and result in a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^

To learn more about Scheuermann’s kyphosis, contact the dedicated team at Laser Spine Institute today. We can work with you to discuss nonsurgical treatment options that can help alleviate the pain and discomfort you are experiencing.