Spinal deformity is a medical condition that refers to any type of abnormality in the shape, alignment, or formation of the spine. The human spine normally has a gentle curve, but when these curves become extreme or shift, it leads to deformities. Some deformities are mild while others are severe. The former are not recognizable, the latter characterize the personality of the individual and also cause physical problems. Spinal deformity is also known as a misshapen spine or curvy spine and can affect anyone – children, teenagers, adults, or the elderly.
Signs and symptoms of spinal deformity include lower back pain, weakness, pain in the legs or thighs, muscle cramps, difficulty breathing, uneven shoulders or hips, or both, head misalignment, protruding shoulder blade, and poor gait.
- Scoliosis, Kyphosis, and Spondylolisthesis – Spinal deformities are mainly classified into three conditions that commonly affect people: These spinal deformities include the following:
- Scoliosis – This type of spinal deformity causes the spine to curve from side to side, forming an “S” or “C” shape. It mainly affects adolescents of growing age, but can also affect children and adults. It can be caused by birth defects, genetic reasons, or neurological defects. It can be structural or non-structural. The former is caused by illness, injury, or birth defect and is permanent in nature. The latter is temporary and can be treated with surgery.
- Kyphosis – Also known as humpback, kyphosis is a condition characterized by excessive curvature in the upper part of the spine. This is a very visible condition and the person has a bump on their upper back. It can affect anyone and is generally due to poor posture, but spinal infections, injuries, herniated discs, muscle weakness, arthritis, and aging can also trigger kyphosis.
- Spondylolisthesis – In this condition, a bone in the spine moves either forward or backward, causing the spine to become deformed. It is caused by aging, arthritis, or general degeneration from wear and tear.
A spinal deformity can be treated in most cases if it is recognized in good time. If you have kyphosis, or if the patient experiences symptoms such as pain or other tangible signs, a physical exam by an orthopedic surgeon is required. Another exam through an X-ray or MRI scan will determine the degree of deformity and then the doctor will begin treatment. Some cases can be treated with braces or physical therapy or exercise. They correct the abnormal curvature of the spine and the patient can get a normal curvature after treatment, but in some cases surgery is the only option as only surgery can correct the deformed curvature. Surgical techniques include spinal fusion and implant placement.
Spinal deformity is a painful and personality-impairing condition and therefore requires timely treatment, but it can also be prevented. To achieve this, causes such as poor posture, arthritis and herniated discs need to be addressed in a timely manner. If you have back or leg pain, you should be particularly careful and seek help from a doctor immediately. You should also try to maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly.
Dr. Rajesh Kumar Verma | Director & Senior Consultant – Orthopedics, Spine Surgery | Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram
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