What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is the medical term for the sideways or side-to-side curvature of the spine in either an “s” or “c” shape. Scoliosis can range from mild to severe is most common in growing children. If a doctor has defined a clear cause of the scoliosis, the curves will then be defined as either structural or nonstructural.
What is Nonstructural or Functional Scoliosis?
In nonstructural or functional scoliosis, the spine itself is normal and works properly but looks curved. This can be due to muscle spasms, appendicitis, or having one leg longer than the other. In nonstructural scoliosis, the curve can be corrected or may correct itself.
What is Structural Scoliosis?
When the curve of the spine is fixed and rigid and cannot be corrected, it’s called structural scoliosis. The cause of structural scoliosis can be unknown (idiopathic) or the result of another disease or condition such as:
- Marfan syndrome
- Cerebral palsy
- Muscular dystrophy
- Birth defects
- Infections, tumors, or metabolic disorders
What Causes Scoliosis?
In most cases, scoliosis is idiopathic meaning it has no known cause. There are some studies that suggest scoliosis may be hereditary as the condition tends to run in families.
What are Scoliosis Risk Factors?
There are several risk factors that can increase your chance of developing scoliosis, such as:
- Age: Scoliosis is common in children with symptoms beginning during the growth spurt just before puberty starts
- Gender: Boys and girls are equally likely to develop scoliosis, however, girls have a higher risk of developing more severe Scoliosis which requires treatment
- Genetics: Some studies suggest scoliosis runs in families
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Scoliosis?
Depending on the severity, scoliosis symptoms can include:
- One shoulder looks higher than the other
- One shoulder looks more prominent than the other
- One side of the hip is higher than the other
- The waist looks flat on one side
- The ribs look higher on one side when bending at the waist
- The head does not look centered on the body
In more severe cases of scoliosis, people may experience:
- Heart and lung damage making it difficult to breathe
- Chronic back pain as the curve worsens
How is Scoliosis Treated?
How scoliosis is treated varies depending on the cause, severity, and likelihood of progression. In most cases, a doctor will simply monitor the condition with checkups ever 4 to 6 months. However, other therapies may be used such as:
- Physiotherapy: To improve conditioning and overall health
- Bracing: To prevent progression of scoliosis in growing children
- Surgery: In severe cases, spinal fusion surgery is used to prevent scoliosis from getting worse
Can Scoliosis go Away on its own?
Scoliosis is often the result of a growth spurt and many cases resolve themselves without the need for bracing or surgery. It is important, however, important to seek the advice of your family doctor to make sure there is no (more serious) underlying cause.