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Deformity of spine is any abnormality of the formation, alignment, or shape of the vertebral column.
Other names for deformity of spine include:
The spine is made up of over 25 small bones called vertebrae that support the upper body. The cervical spine (C-spine) is the upper portion, comprised of seven vertebrae. It supports the neck and head. The thoracic spine (T-spine) is comprised of 12 vertebrae, which connect to the rib cage and support the torso. The lumbar spine (L-spine) has five large vertebrae that support most of the body’s mass and weight. The sacrum is the base of the spine, and in most people, is comprised of 2-4 partially fused bones terminating in the coccyx (commonly known as the tailbone) within the pelvis.
The normal human spine has gentle curvatures, but when those curves are exaggerated, extreme, or displaced they’re considered deformities. Some deformities are subtle and not easily detected in a growing child. Signs of spine deformities include:
Fatigue may be reported with prolonged periods of sitting and standing.
Diagnoses that are associated with spine deformity include:
A physical examination by your doctor is necessary to determine a deformity of the spine. Screening evaluations of children are routinely done in physician offices and at schools. These evaluations commonly involve a diagnostic test called the Adam’s forward bend test.
A scoliometer can be used to measure the degree of curvature in the spine. However, the results are not completely accurate. X-rays are done when spinal deformities are suspected. An MRI may be done if further investigation is needed.
Treatment depends on the diagnosis and the severity of the deformity. Any underlying illness or injury resulting in the deformity requires prompt attention.
Treatment for curvatures may include bracing or surgery. Braces are worn under clothes to support the spine in correct anatomical position. If you need braces, your doctor will refer you to a specialist called an orthotist. They will measure and fit the brace, and provide support and feedback to you and your clinical team.
Spine stabilization surgery is recommended in cases where there is severe pain, neurological problems, or curvature greater than 50 degrees. The goal of surgery is to straighten and hold the spine straight. Several surgical techniques can be used, including spinal fusion (fusing the vertebrae together) and the use of implants to secure the fusion.
Non-surgical management can be beneficial to people with some types of spinal deformities. This includes exercise, building muscle strength and tone, and weight maintenance. Physical therapy may be part of the treatment plan for deformities of the spine. Biofeedback has also been used to improve posture.
Written by: JC Jones MA, RN
Medically reviewed on: Dec 06, 2016: Gregory Minnis, DBT
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