Scoliosis 101

March 19, 2020

What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a medical condition that causes the spine to be curved in an unusual way. Our spines are not straight lines; they curve gently out in the middle part of the back, then bend slightly inwards again at the lumbar spine. However, when viewed from the back, a healthy spine will appear to run in a straight line from the neck down to the pelvis. In the case of scoliosis, the spine will visibly curve; the condition can be slight or dramatic, so much so that the spine might take on an “S” or “C” curve when viewed from the back. The curves become more prominent when the person is asked to bend and touch their toes.

What Are The Major Symptoms of Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is immediately identifiable because of the unusual curvature of the spine. Scoliosis can change the appearance of the body in other ways, including causing the rib cage or shoulder blades to be more prominent, the hips to appear uneven, and limbs to have differing lengths (such as one leg being shorter than the other). In severe cases, scoliosis can cause reduced lung capacity, impaired movement, and can slow down nerve signals being sent along the spine. Because the spine is curved, muscles in the back will be similarly uneven, making the patient more susceptible to back pain and muscle strains.

What Causes Scoliosis?

There are three main types of scoliosis, each with different causes. Congenital scoliosis is a deformity that is present in the spine at birth, and can become worse or better as the patient grows and ages. Idiopathic scoliosis can occur at any point in life, from childhood through to adulthood, and has no definite cause. Secondary scoliosis is the curvature of the spine that results from another, primary condition, such as spina bifida, or a physical injury that causes the spine to heal irregularly.

What Are The Treatment Options for Scoliosis?

The type of treatment for scoliosis varies depending on the severity of the condition, as well as its cause. For milder cases, and especially for incidents in young people who are still growing, a specific type of physical therapy, called the Scroth method (developed by Katharina Scroth) can be effective for treating curvatures between 10 and 30 degrees, and improving greater curvatures. Physical therapy and exercise therapy, because it helps to strengthen the muscles that are often under stress from the uneven spine, have been proven greatly effective to reduce pain. For younger patients, bracing or casting is sometimes used as well. For severe cases, such as those that impair breathing or that seem likely to progress with age, surgery may be recommended to straighten and fuse the spine.

Information via The Mayo Clinic:

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