Spinal deformities take a number of forms. Scoliosis is considered a spinal deformity because of the unnatural curve in the spine. A front-to-back curvature, such as Scheurermann’s disease, is also considered a deformity. Even multiple spinal fractures can cause an abnormality in the spine’s structure. While it isn’t common for deformities to cause pain, the abnormality in the structure of the body can cause damage to other areas of the body or put pressure on nerves over time.
Signs of Spinal Deformities
There are different deformities, such as a curvy spine, misshapen spine, or a spine that is simply not normal in structure. Signs of a spinal deformity include:
- Uneven shoulders
- The head and the body’s midline aren’t aligned
- A protruding shoulder blade
- Uneven hips
- Curvature of the spine
There are nearly 20 conditions that can result in spinal deformities. Some of those conditions are fractures, spina bifida, basal cell nevus syndrome, brittle bone disease, osteoporosis, rickets, scoliosis, and Marfan Syndrome. Sometimes the best treatment is addressing the underlying disorder to stop or slow down the progression of the deformity.
Diagnosing Spinal Deformities
Diagnosis of a spinal deformity starts with a physical examination. Children are usually screened in their pediatrician’s office or at school. The degree of curvature is measured in the spine, but these results aren’t always accurate. X-rays are almost always done when a spinal deformity is believed to exist. If further investigation is needed, an MRI will be done. If the doctor feels that additional investigation is needed, you can expect multiple tests to be performed.
Treatment for Spinal Deformities
Treatment depends entirely on the diagnosis and the degree of deformity. Any underlying conditions that caused the deformity need to be addressed as soon as possible. Braces may be needed, or surgery may be the best option. Surgery is usually recommended when there is pain or a neurological problem caused by the deformity. If the curvature is greater than 50 degrees, surgery can possibly treat the deformity. Even if surgery has to be performed, nonsurgical management of the condition will be prescribed. This includes exercise, weight management, and physical therapy. Sometimes, strengthening the core muscles can make a significant difference in how the body handles a spinal deformity.
Prognosis of Spinal Deformities
The prognosis depends on the exact deformity. Some deformities are so slight that they simply need monitoring to ensure they don’t become worse. Sometimes they don’t worsen until later in life, when osteoporosis or other conditions may become a factor. Other times, they do worsen over time, resulting in the need for intervention. For instance, a person may have to wear a brace to slow down the progression and give stability. Surgery can also be an option when there is a surgical procedure available to correct the deformity or alleviate it. Sometimes surgery can stop further progression so that pain doesn’t develop later or so there is no damage or strain on surrounding organs.