Elderly Loved One Suddenly Hunching Over? Learn About A Possible Cause & Treatments
If you have an elderly loved one who suddenly seems to be hunching their back all the time, then you may wonder why they suddenly developed bad posture. While some people can develop bad posture later in life, that "hunch" could actually be caused by a spine curvature disorder called kyphosis. This spine curvature disorder can stem from a variety of health problems, but in the elderly, it often occurs due to spinal compression fractures.
While you should urge your loved one to visit a doctor who can provide them an official diagnosis of their spine disorder and let them know what their treatment options are, read on to learn more about spinal compression fractures, how they can cause kyphosis, and what your loved one's treatment options are if these fractures are the cause of their hunching.
What are Spinal Compression Fractures?
Spinal compression fractures are very common in the elderly, especially those that suffer from osteoporosis. When a person has weakened, porous, and/or brittle bones due to osteoporosis, their bones can break very easily, including the vertebrae in their back.
Tiny cracks in back vertebrae called hairline fractures can occur when a person with osteoporosis is just going about their everyday life, and some people experience no symptoms when they occur. However, some people do experience pain when hairline fractures occur, yet they may think the pain is caused by simple back strain.
When several hairline fractures occur in a single back vertebrae, the small bone itself can collapse. This collapsing of the vertebrae is called a spinal compression fracture.
Just like when hairline fractures occur, some people experience little to no pain when spinal compression fractures occur, while others experience severe pain.
How Spinal Compression Fractures can Cause Kyphosis
There are several types of spinal compression fractures, but the type most common in the elderly is called a wedge fracture. A wedge fracture occurs when the front of the vertebrae collapses, while the back of it does not. The back of the vertebrae are naturally stronger than the front of them, which is why this type of spinal compression fractures is so common.
When several wedge fractures occur in a person's upper back, it can cause the upper back to curve, resulting in kyphosis.
How Kyphosis Caused by Spinal Compression Fractures Can be Treated
While another relatively common cause of kyphosis in the elderly is degenerative disc disorder, if the cause of your loved one's spinal curvature disorder is a series of spinal compression fractures, then there are treatment options.
It is important to take this condition seriously and not mistake it for simple "bad posture," because when a person's back is hunched over with kyphosis, it can cause many other health problems, including pulmonary issues. Pulmonary, or lung, problems can occur in people with kyphosis due to the posture causing stress on a person's chest cavity, including their lungs, which can make it difficult for them to breathe. Your loved one may also be experiencing pain they suspect is due to simple "old age" and not realize they have a serious problem that needs to be treated.
One treatment for kyphosis caused by spinal compression fractures is called a balloon kyphoplasty. To begin this procedure, a surgeon will first insert a small balloon into each collapsed vertebrae. Next, the balloon is inflated until it completely fills out the vertebrae and places it back into proper position. Next, the pocket of air left behind by the balloon is replaced with special orthopedic cement, which then hardens and plays the role that natural healthy bone tissue once did.
Vertebroplasty and spinal fusion surgery are two additional surgical options used to correct spinal compression fractures, and your loved one's doctor can decide which surgery is best for your loved one if it turns out that the hunching of their back is truly caused by spinal compression fractures and kyphosis.
If your loved one seems to suddenly be hunching their back, then realize that the cause may not be simple bad posture and the hunching could be caused by a serious medical problem, such as kyphosis. Have your loved one visit their doctor to obtain an official diagnosis and to discuss their treatment options.
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