What Is a Spinal Deformity?
Spinal deformity is a prevalent condition among elderly adults in the U.S. According to research, as many as 68 percent of people older than 70 and 32 percent of those over the age of 50 have a type of spinal deformity known as degenerative spondylolisthesis. Without treatment, this condition gets worse over time.
Which Type Of Spinal Deformities Is The Most Common?
Your spine is structurally balanced in a classic S-curve to provide maximum flexibility while supporting your upper body weight. When the vertebral column is abnormally aligned or curved, you may have degenerative spondylolisthesis if you’re older or scoliosis if you’re younger. Scoliosis is characterized by a sideways deformity. The types of scoliosis include:
- Infantile scoliosis, which appears in children no older than three years old
- Juvenile scoliosis, which strikes children in the 3-to-10-year-old age group
- Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, which is highly prevalent in 10- to 17-year-old youngsters
- Adult degenerative scoliosis, which affects older adults due to wear and tear of the spine or complications from past surgeries
Another type of spinal deformity occurs when your spine acquires an exaggerated curve. This condition, called kyphosis, can occur in your upper spine, your mid-back or your lower back. Kyphosis creates a humpback appearance, which not only limits your flexibility, but alters your appearance.
What’s Does a Spinal Deformity Look Like?
Your spinal column has 24 bones, called vertebrae, held in place by ligaments and other connective tissue. Between each vertebra is an intervertebral disc that acts as a shock absorber, while providing your spine with its flexibility. When viewed from the back or front, a healthy spinal structure appears straight. From the side, though, it has three gentle curves:
- The top of your spine, in your neck, is called the cervical spine. A slight forward curvature, known as lordosis, is normal.
- In your middle back, your thoracic spine gently rounds out at your chest and then slopes in, forward again, at your waist.
- Your lower back is the lumbar spine. Its natural curve, again called the lordosis, curves out to the backward below your waist.
These curves work harmoniously to help maintain your balance. If these curves differ from the normal gentle S-shape, as viewed from the side, you have some type of spinal deformity.
What Causes Spinal Deformity?
Most often, when children have spinal deformity, the condition originated in the womb as a congenital deformity or a prenatal accident. But there are other causes of this condition, including:
- Age-related degeneration
- Diseases, such as arthritis or osteoporosis
- A type of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, which
- Trauma due to a back or neck injury
- A failed spinal fusion
- Complications from a previous spine surgery
- A neuro-muscular problem, such as cerebral palsy
- Tumors or spinal infections
What Are the Symptoms of a Spine Deformity?
Abnormal curvature of the spine forces it out of alignment, leading to symptoms that include:
- Radiating pain that shoots into your arms, hands, legs or feet
- Unexplained weakness in your limbs
- A tingling sensation that travels down an arm or a leg.
- Physical signs of a deformed spine, such as being bent over or asymmetrical when standing up
- A forward jutting of your head
- Uneven hips, shoulders, or leg lengths
- A hunchback
- A flat back
- Sitting imbalance
- Breathing difficulties
- Heart, lung or bladder complications
- Other spinal disorders, such as pinched nerves, herniated discs or spinal cord compression in your mid-back, although these symptoms can show up anywhere in your spine
If you notice any of these symptoms, seek out a spinal specialist. At NU-Spine, Dr. Skovrlj uses the latest technology and his expertise to diagnose and treat a comprehensive range of spinal disorders, including spinal deformity. He makes use of a multi-disciplinary approach for spinal treatment, always opting for the least invasive treatments methods whenever possible.
Can Spinal Deformity Be Corrected & What’s an Effective Treatment?
The goal of spine deformity is to relieve your symptoms while realigning and stabilizing your spinal column. Dr. Skovrlj may recommend conservative, non-surgical treatments first, to see if they help your symptoms.
These may include:
- Oral pain medications, including analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Chiropractic care
- Physical therapy, including gait and posture training
- The use of corrective back braces
- Medication to fight osteoporosis
- Facet injections
- Epidural steroid injections
Spinal Deformity Correction Surgery
Some of the recommended spine deformity procedures include:
- Decompression surgery, such as lumbar decompression
- Minimally invasive spinal fusion
- Reconstructive surgery for deformities
- Corpectomy to remove one or more vertebrae
- Cognitive spinal deformity surgery, especially if you’re feeling less sharp mentally than you used to