Deformities of the spine are any abnormality of the alignment, formation, or shape of the vertebrae or the spinal column. These can include scoliosis, kyphosis, spondylolisthesis, multiple fractures or ankylosing spondylitis. Deformities do not usually cause pain unless the structural change reduces room in the spinal canal and puts pressure on the nerves or restricts movement.
What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a side to side curvature of the spine in the shape of an S or C. In children scoliosis can result from a birth defect, genetics, a child’s growth, aging, injury, neurological disease, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy. The signs of scoliosis are recognizable and typically include uneven shoulder or hip height, a skewed spine, and/or head out of line with the spine.
Congenital and adolescent scoliosis generally cause no pain. However, degenerative scoliosis due to osteoporosis and degenerative disc disease does cause pain. The primary concern is that the deformity can compress the spinal cord or impinge on nerve roots causing pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness. Diagnostic tests include x-rays, CT scans and MRIs. Generally, treatment is designed to stop or slow progression of the curve.
What is Lordosis?
Lordosis is an abnormal curvature of the lower back often called a swayback and can involve the neck. The cause is not known. Lordosis causes back pain and discomfort and may affect movement. Lordosis is observable causing a forward bend of the head, a hump in the upper back and exaggerated posture. Kyphosis, obesity, osteoporosis and spondylolisthesis may contribute to the development of lordosis.
Lordosis is diagnosed with a physical examination, x-rays, other imaging tests, and a medical history particularly the age at which the curve became noticeable. Lordosis is treated with weight loss, physical therapy, pain medication, a back brace. When the curve is severe and causes additional symptoms surgery may be recommended.
What is Kyphosis?
Kyphosis is an abnormal curve of the upper back that produces a hump or hunched forward appearance. However, in mild cases it may not be noticeable. Kyphosis primarily affects adolescents and is mostly mild but can also affect adults. It can cause persistent back pain, stiffness, tight hamstrings, and breathing problems. Kyphosis may be caused by poor posture, a structural abnormality of the upper spine, abnormally shaped vertebrae due to a congenital defect, aging and osteoporosis. Kyphosis is diagnosed with a physical exam, medical history, specific posture and flexibility tests, x-rays
Treatment depends on the cause, the patient’s age, and the severity of the curve. Nonsurgical treatment includes physical therapy to strengthen the muscles and reduce discomfort; pain medication and possibly spine bracing. Surgery is reserved for congenital kyphosis and involves spinal fusion.
What is Spondylolisthesis?
Spondylolisthesis is the dislocation or slippage between two vertebrae in the lumbar spine. It results from a congenital defect, trauma to a vertebra, disc degeneration, spinal arthritis, tumors, prior surgery and spondylolysis. Spondylolysis is a defect in the structure of the vertebra or a fracture.
If due to a congenital defect, there may be no symptoms initially, but symptoms occur with age. Symptoms may be mild or severe. Common symptoms include pain in the low back and buttocks with radiating pain into the legs; difficulty walking and standing, leg weakness and tight hamstrings. This condition can cause lordosis. There is a risk that it can cause a nerve root compression. Treatment is designed to reduce pain and allow a return to normal activities. However, when the condition progresses surgery may be indicated.
What is ankylosing spondylitis (AK)?
AK is a type of arthritis that attacks the spine inflaming the vertebrae and the ligaments along the spine. Symptoms are chronic pain and stiffness in the low back, hips and buttocks that can progress into the upper spine, chest, and neck, and fatigue. The cause is not known but genetics play a role in the disease, and AK tends to run in families. AK can develop in childhood causing pain in the hips and knees and progress to the spine.
Usually onset of symptoms occurs in early adulthood. A hallmark of AK is the erosion of the sacroiliac joints (SI Joint). As this disease progresses over 7-10 years AK causes the vertebrae to fuse together severely limiting movement.
AK is diagnosed with a medical and family history, physical examination, imaging tests and blood tests. An MRI will be used to check for SI Joint involvement. There is no cure. Treatment of symptoms include pain management with NSAIDS, and physical therapy. The goal of therapy is to preserve and maintain physical function and a decent quality of life.
A Multidisciplinary Team
At Ortho Illinois, our team of fellowship-trained and board-certified orthopedic spine experts and neurosurgeons works together to provide the most advanced and individualized care based on the latest research and guidelines.
Our multidisciplinary team approach gives patients with spine disorders access to all of our specialists with one call. Ortho Illinois is dedicated to providing personalized care that meets each patient’s needs to help them get back to good health as soon as possible.
Ortho Illinois has offices in Algonquin, Elgin, and Rockford for your convenience. Contact us to schedule a consultation and receive the correct diagnosis and treatment from our renowned physicians.