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What are Different Types of Spinal Curvatures?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Jan 28, 2024
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There are a few different types of spinal curvatures, some of which are congenital disorders and some that develop as the spine grows, most often appearing in adolescence. Different terms may be used for the same spinal condition; for example, an exaggerated curve of the thoracic spine, giving a hunched appearance, may be called hyper-kyphosis or just kyphosis. A lateral curve of the spine, placing the spine into either an "S" shape with two curves or a "C" shape with one curve, is known as scoliosis. An exaggerated concave curve in the lower back is known as hyper-lordosis, or just lordosis. These spinal deformities can appear independently of each other, or together with other spinal deformities.

Scoliosis is one of the most common spinal curvatures. This occurs when the spine curves laterally to one side or the other, rather than growing straight up the middle of the back, and it can range in severity. Some individuals will simply have one curve in the spine, causing it to appear in the shape of a "C" when viewed from the back; others will have an "S" curve in the spine, with one curve in the upper back going to one side, and a curve in the lower back going to the other. In addition, scoliosis can also cause the vertebrates themselves to twist, which can change the shape of the ribs and chest, and make one shoulder or side of the collarbone elevated higher than the other.

Kyphosis is another one of the possible spinal curvatures, giving the upper back a hunched, rounded appearance. This can occur when the vertebrates of the thoracic spine grow in an abnormal wedge shape, known as Scheuermann's kyphosis, or it can simply be a postural issue that can be corrected with physical therapy. Lordosis is often seen in conjunction with kyphosis, as the lumbar spine attempts to overcompensate for the upper curvature, but it can also be seen alone, and gives the lower back a swaybacked appearance.

Each one of these spinal curvatures can cause pain, and scoliosis and kyphosis can also impact the lungs and cause breathing difficulties. Treatment for each will vary depending on the type and severity of the curve. In some cases, bracing and physical therapy can be sufficient, while in more severe cases with higher degree curves, surgery will be necessary. An orthopedic surgeon can make this determination by examining an X-ray of the spine and measuring the size of the spinal curvatures.

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