Scheuermann’s Disease


Scheuermann’s disease is a spinal disorder that can cause back pain and kyphosis, in which the upper back is excessively curved.

It is essential to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for this condition, especially for individuals who are experiencing discomfort in their backs.

What is Scheuermann’s Disease?

Scheuermann’s disease is a spinal disorder that affects the thoracic vertebrae, causing vertebral wedging and leading to a rounded, hunchback appearance known as kyphosis. The condition typically develops during adolescence and affects males more often than females.

Anatomy and Pathogenesis

Scheuermann’s disease is characterised by abnormal growth of the thoracic vertebrae, resulting in wedge-shaped vertebrae and a loss of the spine’s normal curvature. The disease develops due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including abnormal cartilage development and endplate irregularities.

The thoracic spine is the middle portion of the spinal column, consisting of 12 vertebrae located between the cervical and lumbar spines. Vertebral wedging in Scheuermann’s disease is most commonly seen in the mid-thoracic region.


  • Classical Scheuermann’s disease: involves at least three adjacent thoracic vertebrae with a wedging angle of at least 5 degrees
  • Mild Scheuermann’s disease: wedging angle of less than 5 degrees or involving only two adjacent vertebrae
  • Thoracolumbar Scheuermann’s disease: affects the junction between the thoracic and lumbar spine

In addition to these classifications, Scheuermann’s disease can also be categorised based on the severity of kyphosis and associated conditions such as scoliosis.

Understanding the anatomy and pathogenesis is crucial for accurately diagnosing and treating the condition. In the next section, we will discuss the signs and symptoms associated with this spinal disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Scheuermann’s Disease

Scheuermann’s disease is a spinal disorder that can cause a number of signs and symptoms. One of the most common complaints is back pain, which can range from mild discomfort to severe, debilitating pain. Pain may be felt in the upper or lower back, and can be exacerbated by physical activity or prolonged periods of sitting or standing.

Girl with scoliosis
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Another common sign is kyphosis, a forward rounding of the thoracic spine. This can result in a noticeable hump in the upper back and lead to posture and movement difficulties. In addition to the physical manifestations, individuals with Scheuermann’s disease may experience emotional and psychological impacts, such as low self-esteem and depression.

Back Pain

  • Can range from mild discomfort to severe pain
  • May be felt in the upper or lower back
  • Can be exacerbated by physical activity or prolonged periods of sitting or standing


  • Forward rounding of the thoracic spine
  • Can result in a noticeable hump on the upper back
  • May lead to difficulties with posture and movement

It is important to note that not all individuals will experience the same signs and symptoms, and the severity of these symptoms can vary widely. If you are experiencing any of the above signs or symptoms, you must speak with your healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Causes of Scheuermann’s Disease

The exact cause of Scheuermann’s disease is not yet fully understood. However, studies suggest that genetic factors and abnormal growth of the vertebrae may play a role in its development.

Research indicates that the condition may be inherited, with certain genetic mutations increasing the risk of developing Scheuermann’s disease. Additionally, abnormal growth of the thoracic vertebrae and subsequent vertebral wedging are believed to contribute to the condition.

Doctor examining x-ray of the human spine
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Other risk factors associated with Scheuermann’s disease include poor posture, lack of physical activity, and trauma to the spine. The condition is also more commonly diagnosed in males than females.

Genetic Factors

Research has identified several genes that may be associated with Scheuermann’s disease. Mutations in these genes can disrupt normal vertebral growth and development, leading to vertebral wedging and kyphosis.

However, it’s important to note that having a genetic predisposition to the condition doesn’t necessarily mean that it will develop. Environmental factors such as poor posture and physical activity levels may also contribute to its onset.

Abnormal Growth of the Vertebrae

Two factors contribute to abnormal vertebral growth: growth plates and vertebral wedging. Growth plates are areas of developing bone tissue that produce new bone cells, leading to growth in vertebrae. In the case of Scheuermann’s disease, the growth of the thoracic vertebrae is disrupted, leading to abnormal wedging and kyphosis. Vertebral wedging is caused by an uneven growth pattern resulting in the vertebrae’s front growing more quickly than the back.

Although the exact cause is still unknown, understanding the potential contributing factors can aid in its diagnosis and management.

Diagnosing Scheuermann’s Disease

Diagnosing can be complex, as its signs and symptoms are similar to those of other spinal disorders. Healthcare professionals typically begin with a physical examination, assessing posture, flexibility, and range of motion. Medical history and family history are also important factors in determining the diagnosis.

Kyphosis Recognition

The presence of kyphosis is a key indicator of Scheuermann’s disease. Healthcare professionals can often spot kyphosis during a visual examination. X-rays can confirm the presence of vertebral wedging and help determine the severity of the condition.

Differential Diagnosis

Other spinal disorders have similar symptoms to Scheuermann’s disease, such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis. Healthcare professionals may perform further testing, such as an MRI or CT scan, to rule out other conditions and confirm the diagnosis of Scheuermann’s disease.

Managing Scheuermann’s Disease with posture correction.
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If a diagnosis of Scheuermann’s disease is confirmed, a healthcare professional may recommend postural correction techniques and physical therapy. In more severe cases, a brace may be necessary to help correct the curvature of the spine.

Treatment Options for Scheuermann’s Disease

There are several treatment options available for managing Scheuermann’s disease. These options are usually tailored to meet the individual patient’s unique needs. In general, treatment aims to alleviate pain and improve spinal alignment.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

  • Pain Management: Pain management can be achieved through a combination of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and physical therapy. Physical therapy is often recommended to help individuals manage their symptoms and improve their spinal alignment. Exercise programmes can include strengthening exercises, stretching, and postural correction techniques.
  • Bracing: In some cases, bracing may be recommended to help improve spinal alignment. Typically, braces are worn for several hours a day for a few months. The brace helps to keep the spine straight, preventing further curvature.

Surgical Treatment Options

  • Spinal Fusion: Spinal fusion surgery is considered in severe cases of Scheuermann’s disease where the curvature of the spine is greater than 70 degrees. The procedure involves fusing together the affected vertebrae, which limits spinal movement and helps to correct the curvature. Recovery time from spinal fusion surgery can be lengthy, often taking up to 6 months.
  • Halo Traction: Halo traction may be recommended for children and adolescents with severe curvature who are not good candidates for spinal fusion surgery. The procedure involves attaching a metal ring and halo vest to the patient’s head and neck, slowly stretching the spine over time.

If you are experiencing back pain or have been diagnosed with Scheuermann’s disease, it is important to speak to a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment options for you. With the right approach, individuals can effectively manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Managing Scheuermann’s Disease for a Better Quality of Life

Living with Scheuermann’s disease can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to hinder one’s quality of life. With the right treatment and management strategies, individuals with the condition can thrive daily. Here are some recommendations:

Caucasian young woman doing exercises for back pain
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Regular exercise is crucial for managing Scheuermann’s disease. Strengthening the back muscles can help improve posture and alleviate pain. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to receive guidance on appropriate exercises and movements that won’t exacerbate the condition.

Pain Management

Dealing with chronic pain can be difficult, but several pain management strategies can help. These include medication, physical therapy, and acupuncture. Working with a healthcare provider is important to find the right approach for each individual’s needs.


Bracing may be necessary for individuals with severe kyphosis. A brace can help support the spine and prevent further curvature. A healthcare provider can recommend the appropriate brace and guide proper use.


Practising good posture is essential for individuals with Scheuermann’s disease. Sitting and standing up straight can help alleviate pain and improve breathing. Physical therapy can also help individuals learn proper posture techniques.

Mental Health

Living with chronic pain can take a toll on mental health. It’s important to seek support from loved ones and healthcare providers. Therapy and mindfulness techniques can also be beneficial for managing stress and anxiety.

Managing Scheuermann’s disease effectively requires a multi-faceted approach. By incorporating these strategies into daily life, individuals with the condition can achieve an improved quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions About Scheuermann’s Disease (FAQs)

What is Scheuermann’s Disease?

Scheuermann’s disease is a spinal disorder characterised by abnormal curvature of the upper back, known as kyphosis. It is caused by vertebral wedging, which leads to changes in the shape and structure of the thoracic vertebrae.

What are the common signs and symptoms of Scheuermann’s Disease?

Common signs and symptoms of Scheuermann’s disease include back pain, stiffness, and a noticeable hunchback appearance due to the excessive rounding of the upper back. Individuals may also experience fatigue and discomfort when sitting or standing for long periods.

What causes Scheuermann’s Disease?

The exact cause of Scheuermann’s disease is not fully understood, but it is believed to be influenced by genetic factors and abnormal vertebral growth during adolescence. Certain risk factors, such as poor posture and a family history of the condition, may also increase the likelihood of developing it.

How is Scheuermann’s Disease diagnosed?

Diagnosis of Scheuermann’s disease typically involves a physical examination, medical history review, and imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans. These help healthcare professionals assess the severity of the spinal curvature and rule out other potential causes of back pain and kyphosis.

What are the treatment options for Scheuermann’s Disease?

Treatment options for Scheuermann’s disease include pain management strategies, such as physical therapy and medication, to alleviate discomfort. In more severe cases, bracing or surgery may be considered to correct the spinal curvature and improve function.

How can individuals with Scheuermann’s Disease improve their quality of life?

Managing Scheuermann’s disease effectively involves following recommended treatment plans, practising good posture, and regularly exercising to strengthen the back muscles. It is also important for individuals to seek support from healthcare professionals and find strategies to cope with the conditions’ associated challenges.