What are the symptoms and treatment options for kyphoscoliosis?

Symptom Database

Kyphoscoliosis is a spinal deformity characterized by an abnormal curvature of the spine in both the sagittal and coronal planes. It is a combination of two conditions, kyphosis and scoliosis, which result in a spine that is both curved and twisted. This condition can cause a range of symptoms and can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. In this article, we will explore the symptoms and treatment options for kyphoscoliosis, including exercises, physical therapy, and surgery.

Symptoms of Kyphoscoliosis

Kyphoscoliosis can cause a variety of symptoms, which may vary depending on the severity of the condition. Some common symptoms include:

  • Visible curvature of the spine
  • Uneven shoulders or hips
  • Back pain or discomfort
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Fatigue or decreased endurance
  • Postural changes, such as a hunched or stooped appearance

It is important to note that the severity of symptoms can vary greatly among individuals with kyphoscoliosis. Some people may experience mild discomfort, while others may have more significant pain and functional limitations.

Causes and Diagnosis

Kyphoscoliosis can have various causes, including congenital conditions, neuromuscular disorders, or idiopathic factors. Congenital kyphoscoliosis is present at birth and is often caused by abnormal spinal development during fetal development. Neuromuscular kyphoscoliosis is associated with conditions such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, where muscle weakness or imbalance affects spinal alignment. Idiopathic kyphoscoliosis, the most common form, has no known cause.

Diagnosing kyphoscoliosis typically involves a physical examination, medical history review, and imaging tests. X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans may be used to assess the curvature of the spine and determine the severity of the condition. Additionally, pulmonary function tests may be conducted to evaluate lung function and assess any breathing difficulties associated with the spinal deformity.

Treatment Options for Kyphoscoliosis

Non-Surgical Management

Non-surgical treatment options for kyphoscoliosis aim to manage symptoms, improve posture, and prevent further progression of the spinal deformity. These options may include:

  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can develop an exercise program to strengthen the muscles supporting the spine, improve flexibility, and promote better posture.
  • Bracing: In some cases, a brace may be recommended to help support the spine and prevent further curvature progression, particularly in growing children.
  • Pain management: Over-the-counter pain medications or prescribed pain relievers may be used to manage back pain associated with kyphoscoliosis.

Surgical Intervention

In more severe cases of kyphoscoliosis or when non-surgical treatments are ineffective, surgical intervention may be necessary. The specific surgical approach will depend on the individual’s condition and the goals of treatment. Some common surgical procedures for kyphoscoliosis include:

  • Spinal fusion: This procedure involves fusing the vertebrae together to stabilize the spine and correct the curvature. Metal rods, screws, or bone grafts may be used to facilitate fusion.
  • Vertebral column resection: In cases of severe deformity, a portion of the vertebra may be removed to allow for correction and realignment of the spine.
  • Growth-friendly implants: In growing children, implants such as expandable rods or vertical expandable prosthetic titanium ribs (VEPTR) may be used to accommodate growth and manage the progression of the deformity.

Managing Back Pain and Posture Correction

Back pain is a common symptom of kyphoscoliosis, and there are several strategies that can help manage and alleviate discomfort:

  • Regular exercise: Engaging in low-impact exercises, such as swimming or walking, can help strengthen the muscles supporting the spine and improve overall posture.
  • Posture awareness: Practicing good posture habits, such as sitting up straight and avoiding slouching, can help reduce strain on the spine and alleviate back pain.
  • Ergonomic adjustments: Making ergonomic adjustments to workstations or seating arrangements can help maintain proper spinal alignment and reduce the risk of developing or worsening back pain.


Kyphoscoliosis is a spinal deformity characterized by an abnormal curvature of the spine in both the sagittal and coronal planes. It can cause a range of symptoms, including back pain, postural changes, and difficulty breathing. Treatment options for kyphoscoliosis include non-surgical management, such as physical therapy and bracing, as well as surgical intervention, such as spinal fusion or vertebral column resection. Managing back pain and practicing good posture habits can also help alleviate symptoms associated with kyphoscoliosis. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of kyphoscoliosis, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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