The Diagnosis & Treatment of Scheuermann’s Disease

Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: October 28, 2015

diagnosing spine conditions

Scheuermann’s disease, also known as Scheuermann’s kyphosis, is a condition where the vertebrae in your back grow unevenly with respect to your sagittal plane. The normal curvature of your spine ranges anywhere between 20 and 50 degrees, but those who are affected by Scheuermann’s disease have an even greater curvature. People with a spine curvature of more than 50 degrees, and who have three contiguous vertebral bodies where wedging of 5 or more degrees exists, are diagnosed with Scheuermann’s disease.

Scheuermann’s Causes and Symptoms

The disease was first diagnosed by Holger Werfel Scheuermann, who originally thought the condition was caused by a lack of blood flow to the spine, but advances in medical technology have disproved that notion. Although researchers haven’t uncovered the root cause of Scheuermann’s disease, they believe it’s caused by uneven cartilage formation on each side of the vertebral body. Researchers believe uneven cartilage formation can be caused by:

  • Childhood Osteoporosis
  • Mechanical Deformities
  • Genetics

Symptoms of Scheuermann’s disease can vary based on age and the significance of the person’s spinal deformity. Visually, the patient may exhibit a hunched posture. Children typically don’t experience many symptoms, but that can change as a child enters puberty. Adolescents with kyphosis in the lowest part of their thorax often complain of lower back pain. If the condition goes unaddressed as the person ages, they’ll likely develop worsening pain in their spine, as well as a more hunched posture. They also may develop back stiffness, loss of flexibility and numbness.

Treatment of Scheuermann’s Disease

Scheuermann’s disease can be treated non-operatively or with surgery. If the condition is detected early enough, back bracing and regular exercise are often the best ways to help reverse the curvature of the spine. That said, a brace won’t be helpful in fully developed spines, so this is the preferred treatment for children and teens.

Physical therapy can also positively affect the curvature of your spine. Exercises help to strengthen muscles that help align the spine. Physical therapy and exercise have also been shown to help a patient manage and control pain.

Surgery is another option for individuals with Scheuemann’s disease, especially if their spine is done growing. If pain becomes severe or if the condition jeopardizes the health of other spinal tissues and nerves, a doctor may recommend a surgical procedure. The two most common surgical techniques to correct Scheuermann’s disease are a posterior fusion and a combined fusion:

  • Posterior Fusion – In this operation, two or more bones are fused together to form one solid bone. This method involves making a small incision in the spine, using small bone grafts to encourage the bones to grow together and by inserting small metal rods to prevent the vertebrae from moving. The small metal rods hold the spine in alignment, offer protection to the bone graft, and promote faster healing.
  • Combined Fusion – A combined fusion is more complicated, as it involves a fusion from the back and the front of the spine. Both fusions can be performed during the same operation, and this technique is typically reserved for patients with kyphosis angle of more than 75 degrees. In a combined fusion, the intervertebral discs are addressed, and rods are inserted to straighten the spine.

In all, Scheuermann’s disease is a rare condition, but it can be corrected, especially if it is caught early. If you or your children are dealing with hunched posture issues, consider visiting a back specialist.



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