Spinal Deformities: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Overview

Spinal Deformity is a generic terms, referring to the abnormality of the formation, alignment or shape of the vertebral column. In general, the normal human spine has gentle curvatures, but when those curves are exaggerated, extreme, or displaced, they are considered deformities. There are two types of spinal deformities: scoliosis and kyphosis. Some deformities are subtle and not easily detected in a growing child. Spinal deformities range from mild to severe. The prevalence of adult spinal deformity and scoliosis is not well established, with estimates ranging from 2.5% to 25% of the population.

Causes

There are various problems that cause the spine to curve abnormally and lead to spinal deformities. For instance, deformities of the spine may generally result from spinal fractures and conditions such as spondylolisthesis and ankylosing spondylitis. Congenital (acquired before birth) deformities of the spine occur when bones or vertebrae do not develop properly during pregnancy. Besides, some spinal deformities are due to injury or repeated trauma such as sports injuries, and some are caused by disease like malignant spinal tumors or benign spinal tumors. Other spinal deformities, such as idiopathic scoliosis, have no exact cause and are not connected with an underlying disease.

Symptoms

Symptoms
of spinal deformity range from mild discomfort to severe pain, depending on a
patient’ age and the severity of the condition. Common signs and symptoms of
spinal deformities include:

  • uneven shoulders or hips
  • a protruding shoulder blade
  • misalignment of the head over the midline of the body
  • frequent fatigue with long periods of sitting or standing

Diagnosis

If you
suspect a spinal deformity, it is a good option to conduct a physical
examination and order spine imaging tests as soon as possible. Diagnostic tests
to evaluate spinal deformities may include:

  • Bone scans
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • X-rays
  • Myelography
  • Nerve conduction studies

Treatment

According to different type and severity of
spinal deformities,
there are several treatments options to choose. For mild forms of spinal
deformities, non-surgical treatments can be taken to strengthen and straighten
the spine or reduce the degree of pain. If the symptoms are severe, a surgery
might be necessary. The following are some specific treatments:

  • Bracing

Bracing may be a good option for patients with more mild spinal deformities, but it will not completely correct the deformity. It is possible to cause some problems like skin irritation or muscle disuse by wearing a bracing.

  • Physical Therapy

Physiotherapy (PT) can enhance the
flexibility and core strengthening of the spine. It is a mainstay of treatment.
In this treatment, patients exercise and strengthen the spinal musculature,
improve range of motion and balance. It should be an active process, not simply
limited to passive modalities like heat, ice or massage.

  • Pain Management Injections

The injection of cortisone or similar medications can offer temporary focal relief of pain from mild nerve compression or joint arthritis. Considering the side effects of medications, the injections can only be given safely once or twice a year.

  • Surgical Correction

When the non-operative treatments can’t work efficiently, there is a need for surgery. Surgery should be considered in patients with serious neurologic symptoms including weakness, numbness or bowel or bladder dysfunction. In addition, with progressive worsening of the curvature, patients should accept a surgery and yearly x-ray test.

Before take any treatment option, consulting with a doctor for correct advice is necessary.

Keywords: Spinal Deformities

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