Deformities of the Spine

There are many types of spinal deformities and most involve an abnormal curvature of the spine. One of the most common is scoliosis that often appears in childhood. The abnormal curves may have been caused from fractures, degenerative changes or changes in the structure of the spine after surgery. Not all spinal deformities cause pain. However, when pain does occur it is usually cause by the compression or irritation of the spinal nerves brought on by the abnormal curve of the spine.

On this page we will discuss some of common spinal deformities.



The natural shape of the spine is curved to help carry the weight of the body, balance it and absorb the shock of the human walk. Scoliosis is a three-dimensional abnormal curvature of the spine which may produce uneven shoulders or a hip, or protruding ribs, or the prominence of one shoulder blade over the other.

There are several types of scoliosis based on the cause and age when the curve develops. Scoliosis is about two times more common in girls than boys. It can be seen at any age, but it is most common in those over 10 years of age. Scoliosis is most often passed down from parent to child; however, there is no correlation between the severity of the curve from one generation to the next.

Degenerative scoliosis occurs in older adults. It is most often caused by changes in the spine due to arthritis. Weakening of the normal ligaments and other soft tissues of the spine combined with abnormal bone spurs can lead to an abnormal curvature of the spine. The spine can also be affected by osteoporosis, vertebral compression fractures, and disc degeneration.

There are other potential causes of scoliosis, including spine tumors such as osteoid osteoma. This is a benign tumor that can occur in the spine and cause pain. The pain causes people to lean to the opposite side to reduce the amount of pressure applied to the tumor. This can lead to a spinal deformity.

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When the reason for a medical condition cannot be determined it is known as idiopathic. Common idiopathic conditions of the spine are discussed in this section. Although kyphosis and scoliosis are examples of conditions that can be idiopathic there are also other conditions that have unknown origins.

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The term congenital means present at birth. A condition that is congenital is one that is present at birth. There are numerous uses of “congenital” in medicine. Our clinic treats a number of congenital conditions that may be discovered at any stage of life. There are obvious conditions that can be seen at birth while other conditions we treat are not discovered for many years, though they were present at birth. Many congenital conditions of the spine are treatable although the earlier your condition is discovered the more likely you will have a good outcome.

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In our clinic we treat conditions of the skeletal and neurological systems. The neurological system comprises your brain and all the millions of nerves that allow your body to feel, move and function. Your neurological system is like a computer. Your skeletal system is controlled by the nervous system so it is necessary for our staff to have experts in both the skeletal and neurological systems. Patients have the best outcome in many types of spinal surgery when there are experts in both areas.

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Your spine naturally has a number of curves in it. Normally the upper back curves inward when you stand up straight with your shoulders over your hips. When the upper spine or chestbone curves in the wrong direction this abonormality is called kyphosis.

The most common kyphosis is the appearance of poor posture with a hump appearance of the back or “hunchback,” back pain, muscle fatigue, and stiffness in the back. Most often, these symptoms remain fairly constant and do not become progressively worse with time. In more severe situations, the patient may notice their symptoms worsening with time. The kyphosis can progress, causing a more exaggerated hunchback.

Another kind of kyphosis occurs in older children when the breastbone curves inward instead of outward. This is known as thoracic kyphosis. Thoracic kyphosis occurs gradually and usually requires monitoring by your doctor. In most cases surgery is not necessary except when the chest cavity is limited in space which may interfere with heart or breathing functions.

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Although some deformaties of the spine (like spina bifida) can be very serious, many others are treatable and manageable with medical care. Some take many years to develop and can be treated well.

The most important thing you can do is listen to your body and when it is giving you feedback (like pain), come see our professional staff and we will help you discover what is wrong and more importantly we will help you with a plan to treat your condition.

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