Hunchback or Hunched back is a condition where there is exaggerated forward rounding of the upper back. Hunchback can occur at any age; however, it commonly affects older women, where this deformity is termed as a dowager's hump. Patients having osteoporosis develop age-related hunchback. There are some types of Hunchback which affect the infants or teens. Mild hunchback may not cause any problems, but severe hunchback can be very detrimental where it affects the lungs, nerves, tissues and organs resulting in other medical problems. Treatment depends on age, cause and the effects of the Hunchback.
Causes and Risk Factors of Hunchback
Hunchback results when the vertebrae in the upper back become increasingly wedge-shaped and the cause for this can be various problems such as:
Risk Factors: There are certain groups of people who are at increased risk for developing hunchback such as:
- Adolescent girls who have a poor posture.
- Boys aged between 10 and 15 are at increased risk of developing Scheuermann's kyphosis.
- Older patients suffering from osteoporosis are at a higher risk for spinal fractures which can contribute to Hunchback.
Investigations for Hunchback
- Physical exam.
- Neurological exam to check reflexes and muscle strength.
- X-rays to determine the degree of curvature and to detect deformities of the vertebrae.
- Computerized tomography (CT scan) for more detailed images.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to rule out tumor or infection.
- Nerve tests are done if the patient is experiencing any muscle weakness or numbness to check the nerve impulses.
- Lung function tests are done for severe hunchback to check if the curve is affecting the patient's ability to breathe.
Treatment for Hunchback
Treatment depends on the cause of the condition and the symptoms of the patient.
- OTC pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) can be given. If these are not effective then stronger pain medications are prescribed by the doctor.
- If the patient has osteoporosis, then drugs for osteoporosis such as bone-strengthening drugs are given to prevent fractures of the spine which may worsen the hunchback. In many patients, Hunchback is the first indication that they have osteoporosis.
Other Therapies Which Are Beneficial for Hunchback Are
- Exercises such as stretching exercises are help in improving the flexibility of the spine. Exercises which help in strengthening the abdominal muscles also help in improving the posture.
- Bracing can also be used especially in children suffering from Scheuermann's disease to help halt the progression of hunchback. These children can wear a body brace to prevent the hunchback from getting worse while their bones are still growing.
- Surgical procedures are done if the curvature of the spine is exaggerated such as seen in severe hunchback and especially if it is pinching the spinal cord or the nerve roots. Surgery helps in reducing the degree of the hunchback curvature. The most common procedure done is called spinal fusion where two or more of the affected vertebrae are permanently connected. The complications for spinal surgery are quite high and include: Infection, bleeding, pain, arthritis, nerve damage and degeneration of the disc. A second surgery may be required if the initial surgery has failed to rectify the problem.