SCOLIOSIS: HOW DO I KNOW I HAVE SCOLIOSIS
Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. The normal shape of a person’s spine includes a curve at the top of the shoulder and a curve at the lower back. If your spine is curved from side to side or in an “S” or “C” shape, you might have scoliosis. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), about 80 percent of scoliosis cases have no identifiable cause. It can also be categorized as either structural or nonstructural. In structural scoliosis, the spine’s curve is caused by a disease, injury, or birth defect, and is permanent. Nonstructural scoliosis describes temporary curves that can be fixed. Most cases of it are mild, but some spine deformities continue to get more severe as children grow. Severe scoliosis can be disabling. Children who have mild cases of it are monitored closely, usually with X-rays, to see if the curve is getting worse. In many cases, no treatment is necessary. Some children will need to wear a brace to stop the curve from worsening. Others may need surgery to keep the it from worsening and to straighten severe cases of it.
Common causes that doctors may identify include; cerebral palsy, a group of nervous system disorders that affect movement, learning, hearing, seeing, and thinking, muscular dystrophy, a group of genetic disorders that result in muscle weakness, birth defects that affect an infant’s spinal bones, such as spina bifida, spinal injuries or infections and people with a family history of scoliosis are more likely to develop the condition.
The largest category is idiopathic scoliosis, a term used to refer to cases that have no definite cause. Idiopathic scoliosis is broken down by age group; infant 0 to 3 years, juvenile 4 to 10 years, adolescent 11 to 18 years and adult 18+ years. Of these, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is the most common, according to the AANS.
Imaging; X-ray, MRI scan, CT scan and bone scan.
Symptoms vary depending on the degree. Common symptoms associated with it include the following;
- One shoulder blade that’s higher than the other
- One shoulder blade that sticks out more than the other
- Uneven hips
- A rotating spine (If a scoliosis curve gets worse, the spine will also rotate or twist, in addition to curving side to side. This causes the ribs on one side of the body to stick out farther than on the other side)
- Problems breathing because of reduced area in the chest for lungs to expand
- Back pain
Treatment depends on numerous factors, the degree of spine curvature being a major one. A doctor will also take into consideration; your age, whether you’re likely to continue growing, the amount and type of curvature, the type.
The primary treatment options are bracing and surgery.
According to the AANS, a person with scoliosis may need to use a brace if they’re still growing and the curvature is more than 25 to 40 degrees. Braces won’t straighten the spine, but they can prevent the curvature from increasing. This method of treatment is more effective for cases that are detected early. Those requiring a brace need to wear it 16 to 23 hours a daily.
Surgery is usually reserved for people with curves greater than 40 degrees. However, talk to your doctor about this option if you’ve been diagnosed with it and feel the curvature is interrupting your daily life or causing you discomfort. Spinal fusion is the standard scoliosis surgery. In this procedure, the doctor fuses your vertebrae together using a bone graft, rods, and screws. The bone graft consists of bone or a material like it. The rods keep the spine in a straight position, and the screws hold them in place. Eventually, the bone graft and vertebrae fuse into a single bone. Rods can be adjusted in children as they grow.
Certain therapies can aid in managing scoliosis pain, though they won’t help to correct the curvature itself. Some techniques need more research but may be recommended by your doctor, such as hydrotherapy, massage, electrical stimulation, and back braces. These methods are most likely to aid in reducing pain and discomfort.
Exercise and stretching for scoliosis pain symptoms can’t fix the underlying issue, but it’s important for general wellness and can help keep you flexible. Ask your healthcare provider for recommendations for exercise and stretches to help keep your muscles strong and supportive.
Pain medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) can help to reduce pain. Talk to your doctor about options for pain and inflammation. Note that this kind of treatment isn’t a cure for the curvature of scoliosis. Look for a chiropractor who specializes in scoliosis to avoid making the condition worse.
Long-term outlook for scoliosis
The long-term outlook for scoliosis depends on how severe the curvature is. For mild to moderate cases, the condition won’t interfere with everyday activities and functions. Individuals with severe forms of scoliosis may have physical limitations. Living with scoliosis can be difficult. If you’re looking for help managing your scoliosis, you may want to seek out a support group.