Pronounced sko-li-o-sis, Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine – the spine is curved to either side of the body, rather than straight. It can range from very mild to severe when the spine resembles an “S” or long “C”.
What Causes Scoliosis?
Most of the time, the cause of scoliosis is unknown. This is called idiopathic scoliosis. It is the most common type. It is grouped by age.
- In children age 3 and younger, it is called infantile scoliosis.
- In children age 4 through 10, it is called juvenile scoliosis.
- In children age 11 through 18, it is called adolescent scoliosis.
Scoliosis most often affects girls. Adolescent scoliosis is 8 times more common in females than males, the latter being more likely to develop the juvenile type.
Other types of scoliosis are:
- Congenital Scoliosis : This type of scoliosis is present at birth. It occurs when the baby’s ribs or spine bones do not form properly.
- Neuromuscular Scoliosis is a result of abnormal muscles and/or nerves. Neuromuscular Scoliosis is often seen in people who have Spina Bifida or Cerebral Palsy. It is also frequently seen in people who are paralyzed.
- Degenerative Scoliosis occurs as a result of a traumatic injury. Examples of such traumatic injuries include: back surgery, osteoporosis, or bone collapse.
Who gets Scoliosis?
Anybody!! Scoliosis affects infants, adolescents, and adults worldwide with no regard to race or socio-economic status. The primary age of onset for scoliosis is 10-15 years old, occurring equally among both genders. However, females are eight times more likely to progress to a curve magnitude that requires treatment.
The problem is we do not know who will get it, why they get it, which will progress, or how far they will progress.
Consequently, a scoliosis patient’s life is exacerbated by many unknowns, and treatments therefore that are often ineffective, invasive, and/or costly. Scoliosis patients also have increased health risks due to frequent x-ray exposure.
The Signs of Scoliosis
- Shoulders are uneven
- One shoulder blade is more prominent than the other
- Head is not centered directly above the pelvis
- One hip appears higher or is more prominent
- The rib cage is uneven (at different heights)
- Unequal gap between the arms and trunk
- The waist is uneven (one side looks more curved than the other)
- The entire body is leaning to one side
Adams Forward Bend Test
Have a child bend forward with his/her arms hanging down loosely with the hands even and the palms touching each other at about the level of the knees.
When in this position,:
- Is there a prominence or hump in the rib area?
- Is there asymmetry in the hips or waist?
Can scoliosis be cured?
There are currently no medications to treat scoliosis, nor can the onset be prevented. In most cases, when the curvature is recognized early in its development, curve progression can be diminished with treatment (Braces, Physiotherapy and Surgery).
Symptoms and complications
Although the spine’s curvature is unnaturally bent in individuals with scoliosis, there are usually no symptoms. Some people may experience vague muscle back pain, stiffness, or fatigue.
Developing scoliosis may go undetected for years until a child reaches adolescence. As the child enters puberty, and is growing more quickly, the degree of spinal bending can dramatically increase and become very noticeable.
There are different degrees of scoliosis. Very mild scoliosis usually doesn’t require any treatment other than regular follow-up with a doctor since it generally doesn’t cause any symptoms. For those with more severe scoliosis, back muscle fatigue and pain may be felt during prolonged periods of standing or sitting.
In some people, the condition can progress and worsen with time. The abnormal compression of the ribs on the side of the body can put pressure on vital organs and can cause a change in function of the heart and lungs if left untreated.
Picture depicts varying degrees of scoliosis
Treatment of Scoliosis
While there is NO exact cure for scoliosis, treatment will be based on the severity of the spine’s curvature. In mild cases, treatment isn’t necessary. The more severe the curve, the greater the chances that the condition will progress. Prompt treatment will usually prevent the condition from worsening.
Some of the treatment options include:
–Bracing: For progressive scoliosis, a customized brace or plaster cast will be needed to hold the spine straight. The brace is made to extend from the hips to the neck and must be worn for about 23 hours a day. The brace is worn until the skeleton stops growing rapidly, which is usually when adolescents have almost reached full height.
For many young patients, wearing a brace to school can be very stressful and frustrating. Counselling and support can help children and adolescents adjust and deal with negative feelings and concerns. Without the help of the brace (and sometimes despite brace use), the scoliosis can get worse and surgery may be required
-Surgery: Surgery for adolescents with scoliosis is only recommended when their curves are greater than 40 to 45 degrees and continuing to progress, and for most patients with curves that are greater than 50 degrees.
Unlike back braces, which do not correct spinal curves already present, surgery can correct curvature by about 50%. Furthermore, surgery prevents further progression of the curve.
There are several approaches to scoliosis surgery, but all use modern instrumentation systems in which hooks and screws are applied to the spine to anchor long rods. The rods are then used to reduce and hold the spine while bone that is added fuses together with existing bone.
–Alternative Treatments: Alternative treatments to scoliosis include physical therapy exercises, yoga and chiropractic. These treatments are regarded as alternative because they fall outside of the traditional orthopedic practices of observation, bracing and surgery.
While most physical therapy is not effective for scoliosis, there are certain types of specific types of physical therapy exercise for scoliosis that does help. Whether or not physical therapy will be able to help you depends on if they are trained in scoliosis specific corrective exercises. There are various physical therapy methods. The Schroth Method is an example of a three dimensional type of physical therapy exercise for scoliosis.
A family history of scoliosis is an important risk factor. If you have a family history of scoliosis, take your child to see your family doctor or a pediatrician for early screening. When detected early and treated appropriately, scoliosis may not progress or cause major disability.
EARLY DETECTION IS VERY KEY!
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