What is Scheuermann’s Disease?

Scheuermann’s disease (otherwise known as Scheuermann’s Kyphosis) is not as scary as it may sound, and it should not be mistaken for a disease you can catch like the common cold or the flu.

What is it:

Scheuermann’s is a spine defect where 3 or more consecutive upper back segments in a row present with 5 degrees or more of anterior (front) wedging- this makes the person seem more hunched. Scheuermann’s disease is a common condition seen in young adults (12-16-year old’s) and is usually disregarded as poor posture. Unlike lazier counterparts, those diagnosed with Scheuermann’s disease are unable to completely correct their slouch, which results in their body compensating for this through their lower back and neck.   


The most common area to be affected is the middle of the back between T7-T9 (just below the shoulder blades), though it can also present lower. Pain generally occurs after periods of prolonged sitting or exercise – with pain being localised to the middle of the curve. It is reported that 50% of pain generally occurs during a growth spurt. Other symptoms of Scheuermann’s disease include upper back pain, reduced back mobility, reduced participation in sporting activities and potential self-image concerns.   


Diagnosis of Scheuermann’s is achieved by an x-ray and are generally made after the age of 10. Curves are monitored from diagnosis through to skeletal maturity which occurs at age 16 for females and 18 for males. For curves greater than 55-60 degrees are closely monitored after this time as they are at risk of progressing after skeletal maturity.


What can an osteopath do?

Evidence suggests for those diagnosed with Scheuermann’s with a curve less than 60 degrees will benefit from exercise and physical therapy. Osteopaths may assist with pain levels through a range of hands-on techniques, assisting with muscle tone and posture whilst also assessing compensation patterns associated with the neck and lower back.  

Safain MG, Hwang SW, Samdani AF. Introduction to Spinal Deformities in Children. In: Winn HRMD, editor. Youmans and Winn Neurological Surgery2017. p. 1899-912.e3
Agabegi SS, Thawrani DP, Crawford AH. Pediatric Kyphosis : Scheuermann Disease and Congenital Deformity. In: Garfin SRMD, Eismont FJMD, Bell GRMD, Fischgrund JSMD, Bono CMMD, editors. Rothman-Simeone and Herkowitz’s The Spine2018. p. 525-47.

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