Scheuermann’s Disease

Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare is one of the nation’s Best Children’s Hospitals for pediatric orthopedics. We offer comprehensive services for complex conditions—such as Scheuermann’s disease— and their related complications. Our orthopedic surgeons collaborate with other Gillette specialists to provide expert care for every patient. We also evaluate and treat patients whose needs continue into adulthood. Our goal is to provide a family-centered environment that helps our patients achieve their highest possible levels of health, independence and happiness.

Why Choose Gillette?

  • Gillette is one of the nation’s Best Children’s Hospitals in pediatric orthopedics.
  • Our facilities and technology are designed specifically for people who have Scheuermann’s disease and other complex conditions.
  • We offer an interdisciplinary team of experts who understand how Scheuermann’s disease affects health, appearance, self-esteem and quality of life.
  • We believe that children who have Scheuermann’s disease deserve a lifetime of excellent health care—from birth through adulthood.

Definition

Scheuermann’s disease, or Scheuermann’s kyphosis, is a condition that causes too much curvature in the middle of the back. This typically happens during periods of accelerated growth, when the front of the spine doesn’t grow as quickly as the back of the spine. The normally healthy, rectangular vertebrae become wedge-shaped, causing the middle of the spine to curve forward abnormally, leading to a rounded or stooped posture.


Scheuermann’s Disease Symptoms and Effects

The symptoms of Scheuermann’s disease typically develop between age 10 and 15, while bones are still growing during adolescence.

The most common symptoms of the condition are:

  • Fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Tight hamstrings
  • Rigid curvature of the spine
  • Loss of flexibility
  • Slouching or posture that gradually worsens
  • Difficulty breathing (in severe cases)

In severe cases, Scheuermann’s disease can affect breathing or injure the spinal cord. The condition also might also increase the likelihood of developing arthritis of the back later in life.


Scheuermann’s Disease Causes, Incidence and Risk Factors

Although the cause of Scheuermann’s disease is unknown, the condition seems to run in families. It develops in roughly 4 to 8 percent of people and occurs in males twice as often as in females. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of patients who have Scheuermann’s disease also develop scoliosis.


Scheuermann’s Disease Tests

At Gillette, our specialists typically diagnose Scheuermann’s after reviewing the patient’s medical history and test results and performing a physical examination. Specialists diagnose the condition when three vertebrae in a row show wedging of 5 degrees or more and when the angle of the curvature of the spine (kyphosis) is 50 degrees or more.

Tests used to diagnose Scheuermann’s disease might include:

  • X-ray: X-rays taken from the side help determine if any vertebrae are wedged.
  • MRI: MRIs provide detailed images of affected vertebrae, surrounding tissues and spinal cord.
  • CT scan: If needed, a CT scan can provide a more detailed view of the vertebrae.

Scheuermann’s Disease Treatments

Patients might receive treatment for Scheuermann’s disease to relieve pain, correct abnormal curvature of the spine, or prevent a curvature from worsening. Treatment varies depending on a child’s age, the severity and flexibility of the curvature, and the preferences of patients and their families.

Observation

In many cases, a child who has Scheuermann’s disease simply needs monitoring, without treatment. If normal function or pain becomes a problem, we might be recommend other treatments.

Physical therapy

We might recommend physical therapy to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility, which can help patients manage pain. Physical therapy alone, however, won’t reduce abnormal curvature of the spine.

Anti-inflammatory medication

If pain becomes a problem, we might prescribe anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs).

Bracing

In some cases, we recommend bracing to prevent the curvature from worsening. Bracing typically holds the spine straight during growth and prevents the curvature from progressing in children younger than 14. If they wear the brace consistently, the curvature is usually corrected after two years.

Surgery

In severe cases—such as when acute pain isn’t minimized through nonsurgical treatments—we might perform surgery. We might also recommend surgery to improve alignment of the spine or when pressure on the spinal cord limits function or damages nerves.


Scheuermann’s Disease Services

Gillette offers comprehensive services for patients who have Scheuermann’s disease. Our experts collaborate to develop custom treatment plans for every patient.

Specialties and services most often involved in the care and treatment of Scheuermann’s disease include:

For more information about Gillette’s specialties and services, search Conditions and Care.