How is kyphosis diagnosed?

To diagnose kyphosis, a doctor will do a physical exam to look at the spine, and may order X-rays to measure the curve of the spine. The natural curve of the spine is between 20 and 45 degrees. Kyphosis is diagnosed when the spine’s curve goes beyond 50 degrees.

The doctor may also evaluate for other contributing conditions that may be related to the kyphosis. For example, in older patients, Parkinson’s disease can contribute to a thoracic kyphosis.

In a case of a severe curve, the doctor might also order a pulmonary function test, to evaluate how well the lungs are working.

If there are signs that the spinal cord is being compressed (squeezed), like numbness or tingling, bladder or bowel incontinence, and poor balance, the doctor might also order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to get a more detailed look.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/05/2017.

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