Do you worry that you may have scoliosis? If your spine has an unusual curve that is like a “C” or “S” shape, you may have scoliosis. This condition is when your spine has a curvature that is not normal. You can identify whether the curvature is abnormal because the usual shape of our spine have curves at both the top and lower back.
Causes of Scoliosis
For most of the cases of people with scoliosis, the doctors cannot identify the cause. Scoliosis is commonly diagnosed at the first decade of a person’s life. Specialists think that some of the causes of scoliosis include genetic condition like muscular dystrophy, neurological abnormalities, and birth defects like spina bifida.
If the cause of scoliosis is congenital, it means that the deformities of the spine have been there since birth. With the neurological cause, there are abnormalities in the nerves affecting the muscles in the patient’s spine. Cerebral palsy can be a cause of scoliosis. This disorder can affect a person’s thinking, hearing, seeing, learning, and movement.
Of all the scoliosis types, the category of idiopathic scoliosis is the one with the most number of cases. When the scoliosis case has no known or certain cause, this term is used. A way to further break down this category of scoliosis is by the following age groups: infant, juvenile, adolescent, and adult. Among these groups, the idiopathic scoliosis among adolescents is the most prevalent.
Another way of categorizing scoliosis cases is by dividing them into either nonstructural or structural cases. With structural scoliosis, this means that the curve of the spine is because of birth defects, injury, or disease. It is also permanent. With nonstructural cases, the curves of the spine are only temporary and they can be treated.
The symptoms of scoliosis can be different from case to case. This depends on the degree of the person’s scoliosis. Here are some of the most common symptoms that are observable with a person who has scoliosis.
• The shoulder blades are uneven because one may be higher compared to the other.
• The hips may be uneven.
• The spine may rotate.
• A person with scoliosis may experience having difficulties in breathing because the areas of the chest where the lungs can expand are reduced.
• Back pain may be felt by people with scoliosis.
How Scoliosis is Diagnosed
A way to diagnose if a person has scoliosis is through a physical exam. The doctor may further ask for imaging tests so that he or she can have a better look at the patient’s spine. With the physical exam, the doctor will observe the patient’s back while he or she is standing. The curvature of the spine will be checked. The doctor will also take a look if the waist area and shoulders are symmetrical.
Another step is that the doctor asks for the patient to bend forward so that the doctor can see the curvature of the lower and upper back. To see if the person has scoliosis, imaging tests may also be requested by the doctor. Some of the tests include a bone scan, CT scan, MRI scan, and X-ray.
How can Scoliosis be Treated?
There are several factors to consider when it comes to treating scoliosis. Among these factors include the type and amount curvature of the spine, age, the scoliosis type, and whether the patient is still growing. Two of the primary treatments for scoliosis are surgery and bracing.
Bracing for Scoliosis
Bracing is recommended if the patient is still growing and the spine curvature is more than 30 degrees. Braces as treatment for scoliosis will not be able to straighten the patient’s spine. Nevertheless, it helps greatly in preventing the spine curvature from getting worse. This treatment option is most effective if the scoliosis has been detected early.
To make this treatment more effective, the brace needs to be worn at all times. Children, however, may choose to have the brace removed if they want to take part in sports activities or exercise. Doctors would normally recommend children with scoliosis to continue on wearing their braces up until such time when they have grown fully.
Braces have to types: Milwaukee and Underarm. The Milwaukee brace begins at the neck, covering the whole torso expect for the arms and legs. This type of brace is best for cases of scoliosis that Underarm braces cannot address. Underarm braces are plastic braces that fit closely to the patient’s body. It is not noticeable when worn. Underarm braces are used when treating the lower curves of the spine.
Surgery for Scoliosis
Surgery is an option for patients who have spine curvature of more than 50 degrees. But before deciding on this, it is best to discuss with the doctor about how the curvature has been causing discomfort or interrupting daily activities.
Spinal fusion, is the standard surgery for scoliosis. Vertebrae is fused together with the use of screws, rods, and bone graft during this procedure. The rods help in keeping the spine straight while the screws keep them the rods in place. In time, the vertebrae and the bone graft will be fused into one bone. The rods will be adjusted accordingly as he or she grows, if the patient is a child.
There are some risks to surgery as treatment for scoliosis. This includes nerve damage, pain, infection, failure to heal, and excessive bleeding. Any person who wants to resort to surgery to treat his or her scoliosis should be aware of these risks and should first talk to the doctor about what to expect.
Most of the cases of scoliosis only have mild or moderate spine curvature. Usually, scoliosis of this type won’t be interfering with everyday functions and activities. If the scoliosis type is severe though, physical limitations can be more apparent.
Early detection is key to treating scoliosis and preventing the spine curvature from getting worse. Set an appointment with your doctor immediately to get a diagnosis if you feel that you have scoliosis.
Dr. Tymothy L. Flory graduated from Logan College of Chiropractic in St. Louis, Missouri. Before opening Atlas Brain Spine, Dr. Flory practiced Upper Cervical Chiropractic in Seattle, Washington. Dr. Flory completed Board Certification of the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association in 2012 and is currently a Credentialed Instructor for the organization.