Key Points about Spinal Deformities
- Spinal deformities can be present at birth or occur later in later.
- Specialists diagnose spinal deformities using a combination of a physical exam and imaging tests.
- Spinal deformities are typically treated using a combination of bracing and surgeries.
The spine is comprised of small bones (called vertebrae) stacked on top of one another and cushioned between each with a disc. When viewed from the side, the spine should have gentle curves, which serve to help the spine absorb stress from the body’s daily movements. When viewed from the rear, the spine should run right up the center of the back.
There are a variety of spinal deformities that can cause the normal curvature and shape of the spine to be different, including:
- Congenital (present at birth) scoliosis
- Later onset scoliosis, such as during adolescence
- Neuromuscular scoliosis
Spinal deformities causes
Some of the causes of spinal deformities are:
- Congenital abnormality
- Spinal tumor
- Trauma to the back, as in a sports injury
Spinal deformities risk factors
Factors that put you at an increased risk for developing spinal deformities include:
- Having a congenital disease that affects the spine
- Having a spinal tumor
- Participating in high-impact sports, such as soccer or football
Spinal deformities symptoms
Signs and symptoms of spinal deformities may include:
- Back pain
- Head not being centered with the rest of the body
- Rounded back (kyphosis)
- Shoulders of uneven heights
- Titled pelvis
- Trouble breathing
- Trouble walking
- Uneven waistline
Spinal deformities diagnosis
Your specialist may recommend one or more of the following tests to diagnose spinal deformities:
Physical exam. Your specialist will complete a physical examination to check the curvature and shape of the spine.
EOS imaging. In this imaging test, you will be standing up so that the equipment captures an image of your spine while it is bearing the usual load of your body.
Imaging tests. Your doctor may order imaging tests – such as positron emission tomography (PET) scan, ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan – to get a detailed image of your spine, as well as check for infection or a tumor in the spine.
Bone density test. Because spinal deformities can weaken your bones, your doctor may recommend you undergo this test to check your bone strength.
Pulmonary function tests. These types check how well your lungs are taking in and releasing oxygen and other gases from your body.
Spinal deformities treatment
Your specialist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options for spinal deformities:
Bracing. Your specialist may recommend you wear a specialized brace – such as a back brace or halo vest – to help stabilize your spine and reduce your pain.
Spinal fusion. Your specialist may perform this surgical procedure to stabilize your spine permanently.
When should I seek care?
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a spine specialist for more specialized treatment.