You can be born with various spinal conditions such as idiopathic scoliosis, lumbarisation, sacralisation, vertebral stenosis, spina bifida and spondylolisthesis. Each of these congenital spine disorders will be discussed in closer detail on their own page on this website.
At the outset, it’s important you know that congenital anomalies, per se, do not cause pain. In the words of the researchers: 'No association has been found between congenital abnormalities in the lumbar spine and pain in that area for spina bifida, transitional lumbar vertebra, spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis' (van Tulder et al., 1997; Luoma et al., 2004; Brooks et al., 2009).
Spina bifida is caused by incomplete closure of
the back of the spine as a baby in utero
I believe it's what happens to the spine – usually by ways of it coping with the congenital anomaly - that complicates the picture. Usually, but not always, it’s the secondary strain caused by the anatomical defect that causes extra strain, then inflammation - and pain - and this component is usually very treatable.
All congenital disorders involve small anomalies and anatomical defects that can throw out the smooth-running operation of the spine by subtly altering the biomechanics and the forces through the joints. This creates an acquired strain that makes the pain levels - and the breakdown rate - of the original spinal condition much more variable.
The secondary element to congenital syndromes explains why vertebral stenosis (a narrowed spinal canal) say, only becomes a problem in later years – perhaps after twisting awkwardly to lift a television set, or sleeping on a soft bed. Just the same is true of spina bifida, sacralisation, lumbarisation, or scoliosis. Though there since birth, the underlying condition often only starts becoming a problem when brought to life by a fairly minor spine-hurting incident that afflicts the soft tissues in the same area; lifting a pot plant say, or sitting too many days at a seminar.
This sudden emergence of symptoms from a problem that has always been there is explained by developmental problems settling in 'on top of' congenital ones over time. The mechanical smooth-running of the area has gradually become more handicapped by the awkward biomechanics, ultimately setting up its own strain and inflammation of the soft tissues. At the critical point, the new troubles emerge, making the pain states much more angry and variable.
Quasimodo 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' by Antoine Wiertz
When I say ‘fixable’ I do not mean that treatment is going to miraculously make a scoliotic spine straight, or a stenotic spinal canal wider. Nor is it going to dissolve the anomalous bony union between an L5 transverse process and the pelvis in the case of sacralisation. However, treatment has the capacity to reduce inflammation and swelling that has set up around and about the spinal anomaly from the cumulative physical strain caused by the anomaly.
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