The term “spinal abnormalities” encompasses any extensive variation or deviation from the typical spinal anatomy. Patients are either born with these types of conditions, meaning they are congenital, or they are natural result of the aging process. Though these types of conditions may be deemed medically irregular, they are not uncommon.
Also, being diagnosed with a spinal abnormality does not mean that you will experience pain. The relationship between spinal abnormalities and pain is complicated. Often pain can be linked back to subsequent conditions which were a result of injury, rather than the spinal abnormality itself. For instance, a patient may suffer from scoliosis; however their pain may be due to a bulging disc.
Non-Injury-related spinal abnormalities
Many people are born each year with spinal abnormalities. Some conditions are severe and require immediate medical treatment to prevent or ameliorate serious deformity. Other conditions may be asymptomatic and undetected for years. Some examples of congenital spinal conditions include:
- Spina Bifida: Spina Bifida can manifest in two ways, spina bifida occulta, and spina bifida overta. The literal translation of spina bifida is “split spine”, occulta means “hidden”, and overta means “known.” These conditions are the result of the neural tube in a developing fetus not fully closing, causing vertebrae to incompletely form. The level of developmental defect results in the differentiation between the two types. Patients with this condition have part of their spinal cord residing outside of the spinal canal. Patients with spina bifida occulta, have only a small defect and continue to develop normally. Often, these patients discover their diagnosis as adults with the onset of back pain. In spina bifida overta, the neural tube defect is larger. Patients suffering from spina bifida overta often are diagnosed as infants and suffer from different forms of paralysis due to the nervous system’s inability to fully develop.
- Scoliosis: Scoliosis refers to the unnatural curvature of a patient’s spine. This often is seen in the patient’s spine making a “c” curve or an “s” shaped curve. The severity of the condition ranges from minimal curvature to over- pronounced curvature. Patients suffering from scoliosis are often monitored, braced and potentially operated on if the condition continues to develop.
- Sixth Lumbar Vertebra: People are normally born with five vertebrae which are connected, resulting in a single entity within the spine. However, in 4 to 5 percent of people, the top vertebra fails to fuse correctly to the bottom four vertebrae. This is often referred to as the sixth lumbar vertebra, even though most patients do not actually possess a sixth vertebra. Often this condition does not present any conditions, though patients with sixth lumbar vertebra are more likely to experience injury due to the offset nature of the condition.
- Kyphosis: A patient with kyphosis has an unnatural thoracic curvature. This often results in a visible arch of the back, making the patient seems hunched at all times. This condition can be either congenital or a result of other injuries and conditions.
If you are experiencing pain from a congenital condition, contact Laser Spine Institute today for a review of your most recent MRI or CT scan.