Spinal Deformity

Orthopaedic Spine Care

Thorough Care for Abnormalities & Spinal Alignment

A normal spine has natural curves to it but, in some cases, a person may be born with or develop a deformity that causes a change in the typical curve. The Rochester Regional Health Orthopaedic Spine and Pediatric Orthopaedics teams work together to diagnose, evaluate, and treat the full range of spinal deformities, including scoliosis, kyphosis, and lordosis that may occur as a result of developmental, degenerative, post-traumatic, post-surgical, congenital, or other acquired conditions. 

Spinal deformities can range from being pain-free and asymptomatic to being a condition that causes severe functional impairment with walking, standing, or other daily activities. It may also occur in conjunction with other conditions such as spinal stenosis or degeneration. Our team has extensive experience in the evaluation and management of scoliosis and spinal deformities of all forms and specializes in treating adult and pediatric patients.

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What is a Spinal Deformity?

A spinal deformity is when your spine has an abnormal curvature greater than 10 degrees from normal alignment. Healthy spines have a natural “S” curvature that helps provide balance, shock absorption, and weight-bearing across your back. The three most common types of spinal deformities are kyphosis, lordosis, and scoliosis.

Spinal deformities can and do develop in both children and adults. Regardless of your age, the knowledgeable orthopaedic surgeons at the Spine Program will accurately diagnose and personalize a treatment plan to meet your needs.

Spinal Deformity Causes and Symptoms 

The causes of spinal deformities are often unknown. Many adolescents develop spinal deformities around the time their puberty starts, with no apparent cause. Other causes include:

  • Abnormal development of the spine
  • Age-related degenerative changes to joints and discs
  • Congenital defects
  • Neuromuscular conditions (cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, etc.)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Vertebral fractures

For those with mild deformities, there may be no pain or symptoms. Those with more severe cases may experience back pain, stiffness, muscle spasms, and weakness. If your spinal deformity is compressing or trapping your spinal nerves, you may feel tingling, numbness, weakness, and/or pain that radiates from your back or neck to your arms or legs.

There are also often visible signs of spinal deformities.

  • Scoliosis typically has a lean towards one side, uneven shoulder blades, an uneven waist, a hip bone that is higher than the other, and a shoulder that is higher than the other.
  • Kyphosis sometimes referred to as “hunchback,” is typically characterized by a forward bend of the head and a visible hump or curve at the top of the spine. Kyphosis most commonly affects females and can lead to difficulty holding your head upright.
  • Lordosis, often referred to as “swayback,” presents with more pronounced buttocks and may be visible while lying on the floor, while also having a large space between the lower back and the floor.

Spinal deformities can cause complications, including digestive, heart, and lung issues.

Treating Spinal Deformities

Treatment for your spinal deformity is usually dependent on the severity and whether or not the bones of the spine are still developing (adolescents). Mild spinal deformities require just minimal treatment and regular monitoring to ensure your curvature isn’t getting worse. Your provider will take your medical history, goals, and lifestyle into account when carefully crafting a personalized treatment plan.

Non-Surgical Treatment

Spinal deformity treatment is individualized on a case-by-case basis, but if the severity of your curvature is mild, non-surgical treatments may work well. 


For those with growing bones, bracing can work to stop the progression of the curvature. In adults, bracing works to help eliminate excessive movement in the spine, and can reduce pain.


Your orthopaedic surgeon may prescribe over-the-counter anti-inflammatories to help relieve inflammation, pain, and swelling.

Physical Therapy

Your provider may connect you with a Rochester Regional Health physical therapist who will teach and guide you through exercises to strengthen your back and core and improve your range of motion.

Surgical Treatment

For spinal deformities that continue to worsen, those that cause severe pain or curvature, or those that are pinching or compressing spinal nerves, surgery may be the best course of action.

The right surgical option for you depends on your age, the type of spinal deformity, and its severity. Typically, those options include deformity correction and spinal fusion surgery. 

Your surgical plan and strategy will be developed to meet your goals and needs, with patient safety our priority above all else.

Our board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeons are experts in performing minimally invasive spine surgeries focused on improving mobility, reducing pain, and getting you back to the things you love. 

Spinal Fusion Surgery

A spinal fusion can address extreme curvature of the spine. Your surgeon will fuse a vertebral bone (attach it) to an adjacent vertebral bone so that they grow together into one long bone. A fusion will reduce spinal movement, but the immobility caused prevents your spine from curving further.

female doctor illustration

Get Back in Action

If a spinal deformity is causing you pain, our expert orthopaedic surgeons will have you back in action in no time. From non-surgical to surgical treatments, we will craft an individualized treatment plan based on your needs and goals.
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