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Spinal Deformity

About Spinal Deformity

When looked at from the front, your spine should be straight. When looked at from the side, the spine has curves of certain shapes and sizes that are specific to the low back (lumbar spine), middle back (thoracic spine) and neck (cervical spine).

The neck and low back should have ample lordosis, or a backward curve, while the mid back should have kyphosis, or a forward curve.

The combined effect of these curves makes up your body’s center of gravity which should be balanced over your hips. A spinal deformity is any abnormal changes to these curves of your spine.  A lateral or sideways curvature to your spine is called scoliosis.

Changes to the spine can produce pain. Abnormal spinal curves of any kind are collectively referred to as a spinal deformity.

Common Symptoms of Spinal Deformity

Symptoms of spinal deformity will vary depending on the exact deformity. Below are common signs and symptoms of two spinal deformities: scoliosis and sagittal imbalance.


  • When mild, these deformities can be asymptomatic
  • Different shoulder height or hip height
  • Visibly off center spine
  • Back pain

Sagittal Imbalance:

  • Stooped forward posture
  • Hunch in the back
  • Incapable of standing straight
  • Mild to severe pain/discomfort

Either condition, if severe, can also lead to nerve dysfunction that can cause extremity pain, sensory loss, or weakness.

Diagnosis of Spinal Deformity

Different forms of image testing can be used to determine a spinal deformity. Some useful tests include:

  • X-ray of the entire spine – produces images of the bones in the spinal column.
  • MRI scan- used to see detailed image of the spine, spinal cord and spinal nerves.
  • CT scan – is the optimal study to evaluate the bones.

Treatment Options for Spinal Deformity

Primarily nonsurgical treatments are recommended and tired before surgical options are suggested. Nonsurgical treatments include medication, bracing, and physical therapy.

If nonsurgical options fail, the pain severely compromises the patient’s quality of life, the deformity is progressing, and/or spinal cord or nerve compression leads to symptoms, surgery will be considered.

Surgical treatments will vary from patient to patient, but all share the same goal of alleviating symptoms and straightening the spine. Typically, some form of stabilization and fusion is required to attempt to correct the deformity and maintain an appropriate alignment.