What Is a Spinal Deformity?
Spinal deformity occurs when the spine has an abnormal curvature greater than 10 degrees from normal alignment. A healthy spine has a natural “S” curvature (as viewed from the side) that helps provide balance and even weight bearing and shock absorption across the back. Spinal deformities can lead to pain, lung and heart problems and difficulty standing or walking normally. The three most common types of deformities are:
- Scoliosis. Scoliosis is an abnormal side-to-side curvature. Cases of scoliosis can range in severity from mild to severe, depending on how large the curvature is.
- Kyphosis. Kyphosis is an abnormal forward curvature of the spine. Cases of kyphosis can range in severity from mild to severe, depending on how large the curvature is.
- Lordosis. Lordosis is an abnormal inward curvature of the spine. Cases of lordosis can range in severity from mild to severe, depending on how large the curvature is. This condition is also known as “swayback.”
Spinal deformities can develop in both children and adults.
Causes and Risk Factors
There are multiple factors that cause spinal deformities. Below are the most common.
- Unknown — many adolescents develop spinal deformities around puberty with no apparent cause
- Congenital defects
- Abnormal development of the spine and spinal discs
- Neuromuscular conditions like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy
- Age-related degenerative changes to the facet joints and intervertebral discs
- Vertebral fractures
Spinal deformities often have visible signs. Scoliosis presents with a lean toward one side, uneven shoulder blades, one shoulder higher than the other, an uneven waist and one hip bone higher than the other. Kyphosis presents with a forward bend of the head and a visible hump or curvature at the top of the spine. Lordosis presents with more pronounced buttocks and may be visible while lying on the floor and having a large space between the low back and the floor.
Many mild deformities have no pain or symptoms. More severe cases may cause back pain, stiffness, weakness and muscle spasms. If a spinal deformity compresses or traps spinal nerves, it can cause numbness, tingling, weakness and pain that radiates from the back or neck to the arms or legs.
Spinal deformities can cause several complications, including heart, lung and digestive problems.
Treatment and Prevention
Mild spinal deformities only require minimal treatment and regular monitoring to ensure the curvature isn’t worsening. Treatment is chosen based on a case-by-case basis, the severity of the curvature, and whether or not the bones of the spine are still developing in adolescents. Non-surgical options include:
- Medications. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories can help relieve pain, swelling and inflammation.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy and exercise can help strengthen back and core muscles and improve range of motion.
- Bracing. In adolescents whose bones are still growing, bracing can help stop the progression of curvature. In adults, bracing can help eliminate excessive movement in the spine and reduce pain.
More severe curvatures may require surgical repair.
For severe spinal deformities that are progressing, deformities that are causing severe pain, or deformities that are pinching or compressing spinal nerves, surgery may be required. Your doctor will discuss the options available to you based on your age, type of deformity and the severity of the deformity.
Contact Integrity Spine and Orthopedics to Learn More About the Conditions We Treat
At Integrity Spine and Orthopedics, we specialize in identifying, diagnosing and treating a wide range of acute and chronic back, spine and joint conditions. Our board-certified orthopedic surgeons specialize in performing minimally invasive spine surgeries to reduce pain and improve mobility for patients diagnosed with spinal arthritis, degenerative disc disease, bulging or herniated discs, a pinched nerve, spinal stenosis and more.
Some of the primary benefits of minimally invasive surgery include:
- Smaller incisions
- Fewer complications and bloss loss during surgery
- Less damage to surrounding muscle and soft tissues
- Lower risk of infection
- Less post-op pain and less reliance on strong pain medications during recovery
- Faster recovery and rehabilitation
- Better cosmetic results with minimal scarring
If you’re experiencing back or joint pain, weakness, or a loss of mobility, reach out to us today to schedule a consultation with our team. We provide compassionate and comprehensive care to help you find relief from pain and get back to doing the activities you love.
Call us at 904-456-0017 or contact us online to request an appointment.