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Spinal Deformity

What is a spinal deformity? 

A normal spine has a natural curve. When viewed from the side, it resembles a gently curved S. This allows for motion as well as the ability to absorb shock and bear weight. In some cases, a person may have a deformity that causes a variation in the normal curve of the spine. Common spinal deformities include: 

What is scoliosis? 

The most common spinal deformity is scoliosis. A typical spine, when viewed from the back, has a straight, vertical alignment. A spine with scoliosis will have an abnormal sideways curve. Scoliosis may occur in varying degrees and is often unnoticed. More severe cases can cause pain and other health problems. 

Learn more about scoliosis

What is kyphosis? 

Kyphosis typically affects the thoracic curve of the spine and is sometimes referred to as “hunchback.” 

  • Some individuals are born with this condition, but in other cases it is acquired.  
  • Poor posture, muscle weakness, and disease can cause kyphosis. 
  • It is common in the elderly, but also occurs in adolescents.  
  • It most commonly affects females.  
  • In the elderly, it is often associated with osteoporosis. 

Symptoms of kyphosis include: 

  • A noticeable roundness of the shoulders and upper back  
  • Pain or stiffness in the shoulders or upper back 

What is lordosis? 

Lordosis typically affects the lumbar spine and is often referred to as “swayback.” It is characterized by an exaggerated forward curve of the lower back. 

Some possible causes of lordosis include: 

  • Poor posture 
  • Obesity 
  • Disease 

Symptoms of lordosis include: 

  • An exaggerated curvature of the lower back  
  • Pain or stiffness in the lower back 

How is spinal deformity diagnosed? 

Spinal deformity is generally diagnosed with a physical examination. When appropriate, your physician may also obtain an X-ray to determine the extent of the curve. 

How is spinal deformity treated nonsurgically? 

Treatment varies depending on your age and the severity of the condition. 

  • Regular monitoring for any changes or worsening of the curve is recommended. 
  • Often, physical therapy can help correct postural causes of spinal deformity. 
  • For moderate spinal deformity, a back brace may be recommended. 

What are the surgical treatment options for spinal deformity? 

If the curve is very large, it may become more severe over time. Some severe curves affect the heart and lungs. In these cases, surgery may be considered. 

Spinal Fusion Surgery 

Spinal fusion can address extreme curvature of the spine caused by spinal deformity. During this surgery, a vertebral bone is attached, or “fused,” to an adjacent vertebral bone so that they grow together into one long bone. A fusion will reduce freedom of movement in the spine by making the fused vertebral bones immobile, but that immobility prevents the spine from curving further. 

How spine fusion works: 

  • During surgery, a bone graft is added to the spine segment being fused. 
  • Your body grows new bony tissue over the bone graft between the two vertebral segments, fusing them together. 
  • When the fused bones heal, the fusion prevents movement at the joint. 

 More resources on fusion surgery: 

Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive spine expertise 

Summit’s spine care team is recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance for the comprehensive expertise of our patient-centered care. Our back specialists diagnose spine problems and design custom treatment plans built on a conservative, nonsurgical approach. Most patients find relief through treatments including guided injections, specialized physical therapy, biofeedback, exercise, activity modification, and medication. When conservative care does not relieve symptoms, our highly skilled surgeons offer proven, evidence-based surgical options. Together with you, we will determine the right course of action. 

Start your journey to a healthy spine. Find your spine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a spine consultation. 

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota. 

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