How is kyphosis diagnosed?

Often, a scoliosis screening at school is when a provider first notices a child’s kyphosis. Other times, adolescents or their parents notice a rounding of the spine. You should see your healthcare provider for a complete diagnosis.

A healthcare provider will do a physical exam to look at the spine. The provider may ask you (or your child) to do the “Adam’s forward bend test.” You are asked to bend forward with feet together, knees straight and arms hanging free. This test helps the provider see the spine curve or any other spine problems, such as scoliosis (a sideways curve of the spine).

You may have a spine X-ray to measure the curve of the spine. The natural curve is between 20 and 45 degrees. A provider will diagnose kyphosis if the curve is greater than 50 degrees.

What other tests might I need?

Your provider may also look for other conditions that can contribute to kyphosis. For example, in older adults, Parkinson’s disease can contribute to kyphosis.

If you have a severe curve, your provider may want to do a pulmonary function test to measure how well your lungs are working. A severe curve may also compress (squeeze) your spinal cord. Your provider may notice signs of spinal cord compression, such as numbness, tingling, bladder or bowel incontinence and poor balance. They may order an MRI to get a more detailed look at your spine.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/06/2020.

References

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Kyphosis (Roundback) of the Spine. Accessed 10/5/2020.
  • Mansfield JT, Bennett M. Scheuermann Disease. [Updated 2020 Aug 15]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-.
  • NHS. Kyphosis. Accessed 10/5/2020.
  • Parvizi J and Kim GK. Kyphosis. In: Parvizi J, Ed. High-Yield Orthopaedics. Philadelphia, PA:Elsevier; 2010:266-267.
  • Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America. Kyphosis. Accessed 10/5/2020.

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