Scheuermann disease is a hyperkyphosis disease characterized by deformity in the spine where patients have anterior wedging of 5 or more degrees in 3 or more adjacent spinal vertebrae. Other names such as Scheuermann kyphosis, juvenile kyphosis, or juvenile discogenic disease are most commonly diagnosed in young individuals aged 12 to 17. Patients present a spinal deformity or a “hunched” back. Scheuermann disease is most commonly observed in the thoracic spine, the spinal region under the neck, and above the lower back. Though very rare, the disease can occur in the cervical or lumbar spine as well.
Scheuermann disease is relatively uncommon, occurring in about less than 5% of the general population. This disease is slightly more common in males. There is a hereditary component associated with the disease, increasing someone’s risk of developing the symptoms. Excessive stress on the spine due to incorrect posture or lifting heavy weights can also contribute to developing the disease.
Scheuermann disease is classified into two types. Type – I Scheuermann Disease occurs in the thoracic spine only. Type – II Scheuermann Disease is characterized by the development of the symptoms in the lumbar spine. This is known as lumbar Scheuermann Disease.
The diagnosis of the disease involves a certain kind of check-list. For the condition of a patient to be characterized as Scheuermann Disease, there should be a thoracic spine kyphosis of over > 40 degrees. The typical angle in healthy individuals is in the range of 25-40 degrees. A patient may also have thoracolumbar spine kyphosis of greater than 30 degrees, which, in healthy patients, is usually 0 degrees. At least 3 adjacent vertebrae need to show wedging of greater than 5 degrees for the patient’s condition to be identified as Scheuermann Disease. There may also be vertebral endplate irregularity due to the increased disk invagation.
A medical professional will make the diagnosis via the use of physical examinations and imaging scans. While physical examinations give the doctor a preliminary sense of the problem, only imaging through x-rays and CT scans can provide specifics. With these scans, the doctor can diagnose the problem areas, affected vertebrae, and extent of the Scheuermann Disease.
Treatment involves specific changes in lifestyle, medication, and surgery. While the most effective treatment is surgery, it is not the first line of treatment. Patients with <50% of kyphosis are prescribed physical therapy and changes in posture. Patients between the 5-0-75 degree range may be required to use a spinal brace to provide support and stability to the back while also preventing incorrect movement and posture. For patients exhibiting kyphosis of over 75 degrees, surgery may be necessary. The sooner a person’s condition is diagnoses and treatment begins, the better their chances of making a recovery. Thus, it is essential to visit a doctor as soon as possible if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms described above. Rapid treatment can help reduce the pain and discomfort a patient experiences, improving their quality of life.