You look in the mirror and check out your posture. Are your shoulders hunched over too much? Is that curve in your lower back normal? A spine expert explained the three main spinal curves and treatment options.
A deformity in which the spine, instead of being straight, is shaped like a ‘C’ or even an ‘S.’ “There are different types of scoliosis including congenital, which you’re born with, or acquired, which more commonly appears during the early teenage years and is known as adolescent scoliosis,” said Gregory Keller, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute. “In adults, scoliosis can be the result of a persistent curvature in the teenage years or related to arthritic conditions."
Treatments: The first step is to observe it. “If the curve gets worse over time, we can use a brace to try to slow the movement,” Dr. Keller said. “If the spine doesn’t respond to bracing, surgery may be warranted to correct the deformity and prevent its progression.”
Occurs when the spine hunches forward at the base of the neck. “It can lead to a dowager’s hump, which is unsightly and could be severe enough to cause significant imbalance. This can make walking and looking forward difficult,” Dr. Keller said.
Treatments: Bracing has a role, but further action is often required to eliminate the curve. “If the kyphotic deformity is causing symptoms, then straightening and stabilizing the curve through surgery is an option,” Dr. Keller said.
The opposite of kyphosis; the spine curves backward instead of forward. “There is a certain amount of curve everyone has that accounts for the ‘sway’ in our low backs. If excessive, this too can lead to lower back problems, usually arthritic in nature,” Dr. Keller said.
Treatments: A lordotic curvature is rarely treated because it is, to some extent, normal. “However, if it’s excessive and leads to arthritic or degenerative conditions, treatment may involve physical therapy, medication, injections, bracing or surgery,” he said.
If surgery is recommended, new advances are offering less-invasive options.
“Robotic-assisted spine surgery is making procedures safer. It allows us to do more through smaller incisions with greater accuracy. This means quicker and less painful recovery and fewer complications,” Dr. Keller said.
Fortunately, you can protect your spine as you age.
“Good posture and core strength equal good spine health. Core strengthening can be done in several ways but is probably best accomplished through static postures such as the planks and bridges often done during Pilates or yoga,” Dr. Keller said.
There are also stretches you can do to promote good posture and back strength. Exercises as simple as standing against the wall with your heels, buttocks, shoulders and back of the head touching the wall and then extending your arms overhead while touching the wall can promote muscle strengthening to help prevent the progression of kyphosis, Dr. Keller explained.
If a curve is noticeable, a doctor can evaluate it to determine next steps.
“Spinal pain is the number one reason for patients seeking medical help,” Dr. Keller said. “The pain could be in the back and neck or radiate down the legs, also known as sciatica, which could suggest a pinched nerve because of a spinal deformity. Although your primary care physician can treat most straight-forward back conditions, a spinal deformity will likely require a spinal specialist.”
Baptist Health offers patients the most comprehensive and advanced back pain care using the latest tools for increased precision in minimally invasive spine surgery. To determine if robotic spine surgery is right for you, call 904.202.BACK or go to baptistjax.com/back.