Deformity of spine
The spine is a shaft comprised of over 25 small bones called vertebrae that support the upper body. The cervical spine (C-spine) is the upper...

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Definition

Deformity of spine is any abnormality of the formation, alignment or shape of the vertebral column.

Alternative Names

Curvy spine, spinal deformities, misshaped spine, deformed spine, curved spine, misshapen spine, curvature of the spine.

Synopsis

The spine is a shaft comprised of over 25 small bones called vertebrae that support the upper body. The cervical spine (C-spine) is the upper portion, comprised of 7 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 5 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 within the pelvis. The normal human spine has gentle curvatures, but when those curves are exaggerated, extreme or displaced, they are considered deformities.

Some deformities are subtle and not easily detected in a growing child. Some signs are: uneven shoulders, uneven hips, a protruding shoulder blade, or the head is not aligned in the midline over the body. Fatigue may be reported with prolonged periods of sitting and standing.

Associated Diagnoses

  • Scoliosis
  • Achondroplasia
  • Spina bifida
  • Basal cell nevus syndrome
  • Becker’s muscular dystrophy
  • Brittle bone disease
  • Duchenne muscular dystrophy
  • Compression fracture of the back
  • Fractures
  • Hunchback
  • Hypercalcemia
  • Ito syndrome
  • Osteoporosis
  • Marfan syndrome
  • Meningomyelocele
  • Congenital scoliosis
  • Degenerative lumbar scoliosis
  • Rickets

Diagnosis and Treatment

A physical examination by a qualified health care professional is necessary to determine if a deformity of the spine is present. Screening evaluations of children are routinely done in physician offices and at schools. A scoliometer is 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, however, it is imperative that all protective measures be used to protect fertility and against future cancer. An MRI may be done if further investigation is warranted

Treatment depends on the diagnosis and the severity of the deformity. Any underlying illness or injury (such as a fracture) resulting in the deformity requires prompt attention. Treatment for curvatures, usually only done if the curvature is greater than 20 degrees, may include bracing or surgery. Braces are worn under clothes to support the spine in correct anatomical position. Referral to an orthotist who measures, fits the brace and provides support and feedback to the patient and clinical team will be necessary. Surgery is recommended in cases where there is severe pain, neurological problems or curvature greater than 50 degrees. Several surgical techniques are used to treat deformities of the spine.

Non-surgical management through exercise, building muscle strength and tone and weight maintenance has been found to be beneficial to patients with some types of spinal deformities. Physical therapy may be part of a team approach to the treatment plan for deformities of the spine. Biofeedback has been used to improve posture.

Call your provider if:

A deformity of the spine is suspected.

Written by: JC Jones MA, RN
Reviewed by: Paul Auerbach, MD
Written: December 17, 2007
Last Updated: December 31, 2007
Published By: Healthline Networks Inc.
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