Millions of Americans live with spinal deformities, including all age groups. A spinal deformity affects the curve or alignment of your spine, typically in a slight “S” curve, or it can alter the straight alignment of the spine. Spinal deformities can develop as we age, be caused by accidents, or are present at birth (congenital deformity). When left untreated, spinal deformities can lead to pain, mobility issues, and neurological problems.
Types of Spinal Deformities
At The Spine Center, there are three main types of spinal deformities that we treat:
Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves to the side. While scoliosis is usually diagnosed during early childhood, some cases go undetected until adulthood or develop as you get older. Roughly 80% of all scoliosis cases have no known cause (idiopathic). Left untreated, scoliosis can cause long-term physical complications, including heart and lung problems.
Kyphosis, sometimes referred to as “hunchback,” is a condition that occurs when the spine becomes rounded. Although an osteoporosis-related vertebrae fracture usually causes it in older women, kyphosis can be congenital or develop during childhood due to slouching or poor posture. When not treated properly, this spinal deformity can cause significant damage to the spine.
Lordosis, also known as “swayback,” is a condition that occurs in the lower back when the spine starts to curve inward. When lordosis goes untreated, it can cause pain and discomfort in your back and neck. While some people are born with this spinal deformity, lordosis may present later in life from the extra weight on the stomach or bad posture.
Spinal deformities often have different characteristics and physical appearances. Spinal deformity symptoms can vary as well. Surgical and nonsurgical interventions for spinal deformities are typically based on age groups.
The best way to know for sure if you have a spinal deformity is by scheduling a thorough spine evaluation with one of the experienced spine specialists at The Spine Center.
As one of the most common spinal deformities diagnosed in both children and adults, the remainder of this article will focus on scoliosis.
Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Scoliosis
At The Spine Center, our age-appropriate, nonsurgical scoliosis treatments include:
Usually diagnosed during puberty, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is the most common type. Since no two children experience a spinal deformity the same way, our team takes time to thoroughly evaluate your child’s condition and learn about your family’s treatment goals.
Factors like how quickly the condition progresses, your child’s pain level, and how many years of growth your child has before they stop growing (skeletal muscle maturity) are all considered.
When your child’s deformity is minor and in situations when they have not yet reached skeletal maturity, their spine doctor may recommend one or more of these non-operative treatments:
- Observation to monitor changes in their condition
- A removable scoliosis brace
- Casting using the latest techniques
Because surgery presents unique risks for younger patients, scoliosis treatment without surgery is the preferred method unless your child’s deformity is significant (curve of 50 degrees or more), nonsurgical treatments are not working, or their condition quickly worsens.
Thankfully, implementing the right nonsurgical treatment plan can sometimes correct adult-onset degenerative scoliosis. If that approach is best for your condition, our team of spine specialists may recommend:
- Physical Therapy- Physical therapy exercises can help relieve pain and get you back into a routine. Depending on your condition, treatment may include improving the joints’ motion from the spine to your arms and legs.
- Occupational Therapy- Occupational therapy can also get you back to your daily activities again. The main difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy is that physical therapy treats movements the body uses and needs while occupational therapy helps to improve everyday skills and activities.
- Pain Management- Over-the-counter and prescription pain medications are the first step. If those aren’t working, your pain management program may include steroid shots or an epidural.
- Epidural Steroid Injections- An epidural steroid injection helps reduce pain and inflammation near the spinal nerves for up to three months.
- Other Nonsurgical Treatment Options– Lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and getting movement every day may also help, along with integrative therapies like massage therapy and acupuncture.
For the elderly
At what age does scoliosis stop progressing? In most instances, untreated degenerative scoliosis does get worse with age. For patients aged 60+, our team recommends many of the same non-operative scoliosis treatments used by younger adults.
However, special precautions for many elderly patients with scoliosis must be taken for reasons that may include mobility issues, diminished cognitive function, a higher risk for drug interactions, and changes in balance and coordination.
Surgical Treatment Options
There may be times when spinal surgery becomes the best option for someone with a spinal deformity. The highly trained back and spine surgeons from The Spine Center specialize in innovative, safe, minimally invasive surgical treatments for children, adults, and the elderly.
As a concerned parent, you may be wondering, “What degree of scoliosis requires surgery?” and that’s a great question. When choosing the best, most effective surgical treatment for your child or adolescent, factors like your child’s diagnosis, speed at which the condition is progressing, and your family’s preferences must be considered.
No matter how small or simple the operation is, surgery always involves some risks. How adverse those risks are may depends on several factors, including the patient’s health and the type of procedure performed.
During your consultation, your spine surgeon will discuss with you why a surgical procedure is the best treatment for your specific spine condition, along with what to expect during your recovery.
For the elderly
Surgical treatments for spinal deformities are often based on an age rating scale. Although there is no set scoliosis surgery age limit, geriatric spine surgery comes with additional age-related risks like blood clots, blood loss, a failed surgery, and post-surgery falls.
Before scheduling a scoliosis procedure, your spine surgeon will discuss these risks with you and answer any additional questions you might have.
What is the Recovery Time for Scoliosis Surgery?
The answer to this question is the same for children, adults, and the elderly. Every patient has a different spine treatment journey, and everyone’s road to recovery can be just as unique. In general, having a good support network of family and friends around you helps ensure a faster, more complete recovery from any type of neck or back surgery.
When you place your trust in our spine health experts, they will create a comprehensive recovery plan with your individual needs and goals in mind. Our specialists stand ready to help you recover and get you back to your everyday life, no matter your condition or age.
Your Trusted Spine Care Specialists in Chicago
At The Spine Center, we’re dedicated to providing you with high-quality, personalized back and neck care. We strive to offer efficient and professional services to our patients, delivered with integrity and honesty in a cohesive, family-like environment. We have a solid commitment to excellence in diagnosing and treating spinal injuries and conditions spanning all age groups.
As fellowship-trained physicians with over 50 years of experience treating spinal conditions, we offer patient recommendations for treatment, including conservative care, non-operative treatment, and sophisticated, customized surgical solutions. Our physicians serve as innovators in technology, actively participate in national and international research studies, and are at the forefront of medical knowledge. If you or a loved one suffer from back or neck pain, call The Spine Center today at (847) 628-8147 to schedule a consultation.