Spinal Deformities

Scoliosis, Flatback Syndrome, Kyphosis, and Spondylolisthesis Treatment

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Duke spine doctors treat spinal deformities to improve your daily living. Spinal curvature disorders can cause a range of problems, from mild discomfort to debilitating pain, deformity, and breathing problems. We offer an array of nonsurgical therapies, minimally invasive procedures, and surgical options, including complex reconstructive surgery. We tailor our treatment recommendations to your symptoms and health needs so you can return to enjoying your normal activities.

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About Spinal Deformities

When the vertebrae in your spine become misaligned, abnormal spinal curvatures can result. The most common conditions are:

  • Adult scoliosis -- a side-to-side curve caused by wear and tear on back bones, joints, and discs.
  • Flatback syndrome -- a loss of the spine’s curve that causes people to lean forward and have trouble balancing.
  • Kyphosis -- also called hunchback, this is a severe curve of the upper back.
  • Spondylolisthesis -- when one or more vertebrae moves forward and out of alignment.
Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Treatments for Spinal Deformities

We can help you find relief through conservative, nonsurgical treatment options. Surgery may be recommended to address severe symptoms that don’t respond to nonsurgical treatment.

Spine Injections

Epidural steroid injections treat inflammation and pain right at the source. Using X-ray imaging as a guide, a doctor numbs your skin and places a needle into the epidural space in your spine. You’ll feel pressure during this procedure. The medicine usually begins working within a few days to a week. You’ll be able to return to normal activities the following day. We give these injections in a special, sterile suite.

Physical Therapy

A trained physical therapist guides you in exercises and stretches designed to strengthen your back, improve your balance and flexibility, and improve range of motion -- all benefits that can alleviate your pain. Physical therapy may be recommended as a conservative treatment option before surgery, or as part of rehab efforts after surgery.

Spinal Fusion

We offer complex spinal reconstruction (or spinal fusion) surgery to correct abnormal spine curves. These procedures stabilize your spine with rods and pins and fuse together the vertebrae. Whenever possible, we use the least-invasive techniques available so that you can recover faster and experience less pain and fewer complications.

Tests for Spinal Deformities

Your doctor may order one or more of the following imaging tests to diagnose an abnormality in your spine and track its progress over time.


By taking pictures of bones and joints in your back, X-rays can help identify curves, fractures, dislocations, instability, or other potential causes of pain. This test takes about 15 minutes and is virtually painless.


This specialized X-ray uses less radiation than a traditional X-ray. The entire body can be imaged at once, from both the front and side, and it can be done while you stand up.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

Magnets and radio waves create detailed pictures of your spine, including your discs and nerves. Images can help identify disc damage or pinched nerves. This test takes about 30 to 60 minutes and is virtually painless.

CT (Computed Tomography)

A series of cross-sectional pictures produce detailed, 3D images of your spine and spinal cord. This test takes about 10 to 15 minutes and is virtually painless.

CT Myelogram

A dye is injected into the sac around the nerve roots in your spinal cord to make them more visible on a CT scan. This test is often used for people who are unable to get an MRI. You will probably feel some discomfort during the injection. This test takes one or two hours.

Bone Density Scan

Also called a DEXA scan, this imaging study evaluates bone loss and helps identify osteoporosis by measuring the strength and thickness of your bones.

Why Choose Duke

Highly Experienced Center
Research shows that hospitals and surgeons who perform more surgeries tend to have better outcomes. Our surgical team performs more than 3,000 spine surgeries every year -- including minimally invasive procedures and complex reconstructive surgeries -- and sees over 30,000 patients.

Committed to Advancing Care
As members of the Scoliosis Research Society, our spine specialists stay up-to-date on the latest techniques and advances in the treatment and care of spinal curvature disorders.

Operating Room Technology
Our ORs are equipped with real-time imaging options that gives spine surgeons detailed, 3D pictures and video of your spine. These systems help avoid the need for extra imaging after surgery, exposing you to less radiation. OR staff also use a sophisticated sensor navigation system -- similar to GPS for your body -- that helps them avoid vital nerves and other structures. A specialized neuromonitoring team tracks spinal cord function in real time to limit injury. These technologies allow for more surgical accuracy than ever before.

Specialized Team
In addition to neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons, your team may include physiatrists (physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors who specialize in conservative spine care), physical therapists, and others -- all of whom work with you to reduce and manage the pain and other effects of your spine condition.

Geriatric Support
We partner with geriatric specialists at Duke to assist people with spinal curvature disorders caused by aging and arthritis. Working with geriatricians helps us achieve better, safer results and allows us to manage all of the complications and risk factors associated with reconstructive surgery in older people. Also, Duke’s POSH (Perioperative Optimization of Senior Health) program helps improve health in people who may not be well enough for surgery.

Best Hospital for Orthopaedics, Neurosurgery in NC

Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our orthopaedics, neurology, and neurosurgery programs are nationally ranked, and are the highest ranked programs in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.

This page was medically reviewed on 06/07/2022 by