Spinal Deformities

Man holding back and neck

Adult spinal deformity, an abnormal curve or malalignment of the spinal column, is not uncommon. More than half of all people over age 60 have some level of spinal deformity. For most people, these changes are usually minor and don’t lead to significant disability. However, some spinal deformities become progressive, chronic conditions that can have a major impact on a person’s function and quality of life.

Common spinal deformities are scoliosis, kyphosis and hyperlordosis.

​Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a lateral bend of the spine. It occurs when the spine twists sideways in a “C” or “S” formation. The actual cause is sometimes unknown and it can develop in both children and adults. However, most adults develop scoliosis due to advanced degeneration of the intervertebral discs in the spine.

The thoracic spine is the most common site of scoliosis. Degradation can be caused by arthritis, osteoporosis or spinal disc degeneration

Symptoms

The symptoms of scoliosis include:

  • Low back pain

  • Numbness

  • Poor posture

  • Shooting pain in the legs 

  • Stiffness

Kyphosis

Kyphosis is a deformity where there is too much forward curve in the spine. Adult kyphosis has varying symptoms and degrees of severity. Sometimes changes in the shape of the back are minor. However, this deformity may lead to nerve problems and chronic pain. Kyphosis is most common in the thoracic (middle) spine, though it can also affect the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower) spine.

Symptoms

Kyphosis symptoms vary and include:

  • Pain

  • Poor posture

  • Severe pressure on the lungs, abdomen, spinal cord and spinal nerve roots

  • Weakness in the legs

Hyperlordosis

Hyperlordosis, sometimes called swayback, is the inward curvature in part of the lower and upper spine. Conditions that contribute to hyperlordosis include kyphosis elsewhere in the spine, obesity, osteoporosis and spondylolisthesis. Additional causes are imbalances in muscle strength, weak hamstring muscles or tight hip flexors muscles.

Symptoms

Symptoms of hyperlorosis may vary from none at all to severe pain in your back. Other signs are:

  • Changes in bowel or bladder control 

  • Discomfort or restricted motion

  • Large inward arch in your lower back or neck

  • Muscle spasms

  • Tingling in the arms or legs

Spine deformity diagnosis 

Your doctor may suggest one or more of the following tests to diagnose a spinal deformity: 

  • A physical exam—to assess the extent of the spinal condition. 

  • Computed tomography (CT) scans—a scan that creates detailed images of the bones, soft tissue of the spine. 

  • MRI scans—a test that creates images of soft tissue and bones of the spine.

  • X-rays— an imaging test that looks at the bones of the spine.

Spine deformity treatment 

Depending on the type and severity of the spinal deformity, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments: 

  • Anti-inflammatory medications—medications that reduce swelling and inflammation that cause back pain. 

  • Bracing—wearing a brace to support the spine.

  • Physical therapy—exercises to strengthen and stabilize the spine.  

  • Spinal fusion surgery—a surgery that fuses together bones in the spine. 

  • Weight loss—to reduce pressure on the spine. 

At The Christ Hospital Health Network, our spine specialists diagnose and treat a variety of spinal deformities so you can return to your daily activities and recreational pursuits.

Find a back (spine) and neck specialist near you.