The spinal column is designed to protect the spinal cord while providing skeletal support and balance to the body, allowing humans to stand upright. Seen from the back, a healthy spinal column appears straight; from the side, it maintains a gentle curve. But when the spinal curves become exaggerated or curve in a direction they are not meant for, it can lead to discomfort and limited motion at its mildest, and severe debilitation at its worst. What causes spine curvature disorders and what can be done about them?
Types of Curvature of the Spine
Spine curvature disorders fall largely into three categories, depending on where they occur and the nature of the curve:
- Scoliosis – A condition in which the spinal column curves sideways, moving toward an S-shape or a C-shape. This is perhaps the most common type of curvature. Scoliosis can happen to anyone, but it occurs most often in children as they develop.
- Lordosis – An exaggerated inward curve in the lower back (also known as “swayback”), often characterized by protruding buttocks.
- Kyphosis – Characterized by an exaggerated outward curve (or “rounding”) of the upper back, causing the head to shift forward as well as a “hunchback” appearance.
What Causes the Spine to Curve?
To this day, modern medicine still does not know what causes most occurrences of scoliosis — the type that develops in adolescents — although there is evidence to suggest it is hereditary. For other types of scoliosis, as well as lordosis and kyphosis, there may be a variety of factors causing the curve. These may include:
- Birth defects — one or more misshapen body parts that cause the spine to curve over time.
- Spinal infections or tumors
- The presence of other conditions or disorders that throw the spine out of alignment (e.g., spondylosis, obesity)
- Degenerative conditions that occur with age (e.g., arthritis, osteoporosis)
- Poor posture over time (for example, kyphosis can develop due to constant slouching)
How Can Spine Curvature Disorders Be Treated?
Treatment plans for curvature of the spine can vary depending on how severe the curvature is, where it occurs and how it occurs. In mild cases that are not progressing, no treatment may be needed. In some cases, doctors may use a combination of exercise, physical therapy, braces and pain management to correct the curvature over time. In more severe, painful or debilitating cases, one or more surgical procedures may be needed to help realign the spine.
If you are suffering from a spine curvature disorder, there are a number of treatment options available to mitigate the pain, correct your posture and restore mobility. For a consultation and evaluations, call Polaris Spine and Neurosurgery Center at 404-256-2633.