Scoliosis is a medical condition whereby the spine curves sideways. The condition is mostly diagnosed in children and adolescents. Most cases tend to be mild but some curves continue to worsen as the child develops. Childhood scoliosis has no known cause. It is prevalent in people with conditions like muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy. Scoliosis can lead to permanent disability especially if the curve is severe. A severely curved spine also ends up affecting the functioning of the lungs. Treatment options for scoliosis are all about relieving the symptoms and not correcting the curve. Scoliosis is painless but if the curve worsens, it may result in chronic back pain. Depending also on the degree of the curve, the body appearance may also change. Children diagnosed with mild scoliosis are monitored through X-rays to ensure the curve doesn’t worsen. Mild cases don’t need treatment.
Types of Scoliosis
There are four different types of sclerosis depending on the underlying cause.
This type of scoliosis has no known cause. It is the most common with more than 80% of cases.
This type of scoliosis occurs due to embryological malformation before birth. Congenital scoliosis develops when different areas of the spine lengthen at different rates. This is due to problems with the vertebrae, the tiny bones in the spine. These tiny bones either don’t develop or fail to divide as they should resulting in a curved spine. Diagnosis happens when a child is born but in some cases, it may go unnoticed well into a child’s teenage years.
Neuromuscular scoliosis is due to disorders like cerebral palsy and spina bifida. It can also be due to a spinal cord trauma or injury. These conditions end up damaging the muscles that support the spine. When that happens, the spine curves instead due to the weight exerted on it.
Degenerative scoliosis is more common in adults than children. The condition affects the lower back joints and discs. Most of the damage is due to age-related wearing of the bones and joints.
Symptoms of Scoliosis
Scoliosis is not usually painful unless the curving is severe. Common signs and symptoms of scoliosis include;
- The waist, hips, and shoulders appear uneven
- There is a visible curve that alters a person’s appearance
- One of the shoulder blades appears larger than the other one
- The rib cage sticks out on one side
- One hip appears higher than the other
If the curve is too severe, it may cause other symptoms prompting a treatment action.
- Chronic lower back pain
- Numbness and pain in the legs resulting from the pinching of the nerves in the spine
- Fatigue due to the strain put on the muscles
- Lower back stiffness
Diagnosis of Scoliosis
The first thing the doctor does is conduct a physical exam. This is especially if there are visible signs of sclerosis. The doctor observes the spine to see if the waist and shoulders are symmetrical. The doctor may also ask you to bend forward to see if there is any curvature in the lower and upper back. Next, the doctor will order more tests that will show the degree of the curvature. Imaging tests like X-ray, MRI, and CT scans provide a better picture of the spine. A bone scan highlights any spine abnormalities.
How to Treat Scoliosis
Mild scoliosis doesn’t need treatment. A person can live with the condition if it’s not affecting their quality of life. But, the doctors will monitor the situation through X-rays from time to time. This ensures that the curve doesn’t get worse.
In some cases, treatment may be the only option depending on how severe the curve is. Treatment options for scoliosis include;
Wearing braces: As the kid grows, the curve may get worse. To prevent this, the child may have to wear a brace around the torso. Braces are made of plastic and worn all day under the clothes.
Spinal fusion surgery: If the spine curvature is too severe, it may end up affecting your quality of life. You may have to deal with chronic back pain, stiffness, and numbness in the legs. Surgery can correct the situation. The surgeon uses small bone pieces or other material to hold the spinal bones in place. With time the bones fuse. Such a surgery aims at correcting the curve or preventing it from worsening.
Rib and spine operation: This surgery corrects serious scoliosis. Rods are attached to ribs and the spine and adjusted as the child grows.
How to Live With Scoliosis
Most scoliosis treatments aim at relieving the symptoms rather than correcting the curve. In serious cases, surgery may be recommended. If not, massage, braces, electrical stimulation, and hydrotherapy help manage pain. Some other ways of managing scoliosis include;
Exercises: Exercising helps manage the pain symptoms and aids in flexibility. Your healthcare provider may recommend certain stretching exercises to strengthen the muscles.
Medication: Pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are prescribed. This helps relieve pain caused by scoliosis.
Chiropractic treatment: This kind of treatment can help relieve pain while improving flexibility.
- Can scoliosis improve without treatment? While rare, sometimes idiopathic scoliosis may improve without any treatment. The curve either worsens or remains the same.
- Does bad posture lead to scoliosis? There is no evidence to suggest that bad posture can cause scoliosis. Instead, scoliosis may be the reason why your child has poor posture. This is especially if you notice your child leaning more to one side.
- Can heavy backpacks and sports cause scoliosis? No, heavy backpacks or sports don’t lead to scoliosis. Heavy backpacks can, however, cause chronic back pain in school-going children.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!