Scheuermann's Disease Posted in: Understanding Scoliosis

Although a difficult name to pronounce, Scheuermann’s disease is fairly easy to understand. The condition occurs when the upper back is too rounded and gives you a hunched appearance. The name is pronounced ‘Sherman’ (at least by most English speakers) and comes from Holger Werfel Scheuermann, a Danish radiologist who first researched the disease in 1920.

What Exactly is Scheuermann’s Disease?

Medically speaking, Scheuermann’s disease is a forward curving in the upper spine of 45 degrees or more, caused by 3 or more vertebrae wedged together. Ordinarily, vertebrae are rectangular and stack one on top of the other with a spinal disc in between each one as a cushion. When the vertebrae grow at different speeds (often a faster growth in the back of the vertebrae than in the front), they may grow in a wedged triangular shape and stack unnaturally, causing the forward curve.

Scheuermann’s disease becomes apparent around the time of a child’s first major growth spurt, usually between the ages of 10 – 15, with the most common symptoms being slouching and back pain.

It’s Not Technically Scoliosis

Since the curve is in the sagittal plane (viewed from the side), it’s not technically scoliosis, which only includes curves in the coronal plane (viewed from the front or back). Instead, it’s included under the umbrella term “kyphosis”, a more general term for a backward-pointing curvature. What sets Scheuermann’s disease apart is the abnormal growth of the vertebrae, which is not necessarily the cause of your average kyphosis. Other kyphoses include postural kyphosis, hyperkyphosis and dowager’s hump (but we’ll get more into those in future posts).

It is possible, however, to have both scoliosis and Scheuermann’s disease, which means the person has at least one curve in each plane. We call this kyphoscoliosis, or scoliosis with a kyphosis. Unlike a scoliosis curve, the rigid Scheuermann curve doesn’t quickly collapse, so it is less likely to worsen once it’s formed and the person is finished growing. In more severe cases and without any sort of treatment, the curve has been known to increase over time.

Causes

There is no consensus among the medical community as to what causes the vertebrae to grow wedged or at different rates. Some doctors have hypothesized that it’s due to injury, but many conclude that it’s more similar to idiopathic scoliosis, meaning the cause is an unknown combination of genetics and environment.

Symptoms

Scheuermann’s disease is characterized by a rigid forward curve in the upper back that becomes more exaggerated when you bend over. It’s associated with the following symptoms:

  • Hunched appearance in upper back
  • Limited flexibility
  • Strained muscles
  • Back and neck pain
  • Poor posture that isn’t corrected by lying down
  • Problems with the heart, lungs or other organs

Since the curve is in the upper back, it can impede on the chest cavity, causing the lungs to have less room and affecting their ability to fully function, which can affect other organ function as well.

Treatment

Similar to that of scoliosis, traditional treatment involves observation or bracing for children or adolescents still growing. The braces are designed to take pressure off the front of the vertebrae and allow its growth to catch up to the back of the vertebrae. Surgery is only recommended if the curve is not improved after a number of years wearing the brace.

There are also alternative treatments you can explore if you are not interested in wearing a brace or an invasive surgery. Specialized exercises, stretches and therapies have been known to improve a kyphosis. Stretching the hamstrings and back can act as an effective pain reliever to those with Scheuermann’s disease. The Scoliosis Traction Chair, developed by CLEAR, has successfully used vibrations to relax the muscles and work over time to restore a natural curve to the upper back and neck.  CLEAR Doctors have also developed specialized cantilevers and weights that can be worn to help restore a more balanced, natural posture.

Mild cases of Scheuermann’s disease are often mistaken for poor posture and not diagnosed. The risk of misdiagnosis or failing to treat Scheuermann’s disease right away is that the treatment may not be as effective later on once you’ve finished growing. Alternative treatments can help people from all walks of life, but the corrections may be limited based on the severity, or may take several years to accomplish.

Scheuermann’s disease is treatable! It doesn’t have to be a permanent pain in the neck (and back). Talk through all available treatment options with your doctor to decide which one is best for you.

Have you been diagnosed with Scheuermann’s disease? What treatments have you found helpful or harmful? Share your experiences or questions in the comments below.

5 comments on “Scheuermann’s Disease”

  1. 1
    Mrs Julie White on January 3, 2017

    A doctor just said that I have slight scoliosis on my right side of my back a backward C. It is shown on my test. I am getting more hunched over all of the time. I do some stretching floor exercises and a rope pull to squeeze my shoulders together. Plus I stretch on the nubax trio twice a day. I am 79 yrs old and would like to get rid of this condition. In 2010, I fractured t11 t12 and L1 while jump ropping which was part of my exercise. T11 smashed into T 12, they healed on their own. But I have the nerves between T11and T12 have no home to go to,. The last two years I have had a yearly burning that stops the pain. Today I was told that our insurance will not ok this procedure right now which I am upset about,for the procedure works. I am calling different therapists and D.C. in our area to see if they can help with the backward C area so I can stand up straight once again.
    Any help in locating the help that I need to would be appreciated.
    I hope our insurance will ok the help,for we pay high premiums.

    1. 2
      Dr. Josh Woggon on January 4, 2017

      You can enter your zip code here to find the closest CLEAR clinics to you: https://www.clear-institute.org/find-a-doctor/

  2. 3
    Terry Robinson on January 20, 2017

    The attached header & link gives the true cause of Scheuermann’s disease.Collagen, Joint Disease and Vaccines…
    http://nrbreedersassociation.org/collagen-joint-disease-vaccines/

    Genetics only play a role due to the fact that there is cumulative damage done to very DNA its self in the puppies – passed on down from parents, grandparents and great grandparents that suffered from repeated vaccinations, highly processed diets, antibiotics and other household and environmental toxins. On top of that, the Purdue study showed that vaccinated dogs do indeed develop autoantibodies to their own DNA.

  3. 4
    Ulti Power Muscle Boost on October 19, 2017

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon everyday.
    It will always be interesting to read articles from other writers and use
    a little something from their sites.

    1. 5
      Dr. Josh Woggon on October 22, 2017

      We love when people share our blogs! When you share them, though, please be sure to link to our site so people who want to learn more can find us easier. Thank you!

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