Scoliosis: Meaning, Symptoms and Treatment
Do you or your child have a curve in the spine?
If you do, you may have a condition called scoliosis.
Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine formed sideways.
It occurs among children in the growth spurt but can remain with them as adults.
This article discusses scoliosis in detail. Keep reading to find out how you can cure your scoliosis.
What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is considered a disorder that occurs before puberty.
The spine appears curved from the front.
Scoliosis is more common in girls, as much as 2 times common than in boys.
It is also hereditary and a person with scoliosis can pass it on to their children.
People with scoliosis have curves backward and forwards on the spine.Therefore, the bones in the spine twist forming a C- shaped or S-shaped curve.
There are three categories of scoliosis.
Mild scoliosis is a 10 to 20 degrees curve, a moderate curve is 20 to 50 degrees and a curve above 50 degrees is severe.
Though most people get only a mild case of scoliosis.
However, these spine deformities can become serious as children become old.
In a severe curve, the spine can decrease the space within the chest making it harder to breathe as the lungs cannot function properly.
Scoliosis is more common in girls that are over 10 years old.
However, boys can get it too during their growth spurt.
Causes and Types of Scoliosis
The causes of Scoliosis depend on the type.
There are 4 types of the condition.
The most common type, Idiopathic scoliosis does not have a known cause.
Keep reading to find out about the other types.
Idiopathic scoliosis does not have a known cause.
If a child younger than 3 years has scoliosis, it is called infantile idiopathic or early-onset scoliosis.
The one that develops between 3 to 10 years is called juvenile idiopathic scoliosis and after 10 years is called adolescent idiopathic scoliosis.
More than 80 percent of people with scoliosis have idiopathic scoliosis.
It mostly occurs on the thoracic spine.
There is different terminology for the position of the spinal curve.
Kyphoscoliosis is a combination of an outward spinal curve and a lateral one, Rotary or Rotoscoliosis is a curve on the vertebral column.
Dextroscoliosis is a curve towards the right and Levoconvex is a curve towards the left.
Thoraculumbular occurs on the thoracic and lumbar parts of the spine(i.e. lumbar spine).
Causes of the Other Three Types
The spine is totally normal but a spine curvature can develop because of some problem in another part of the body.
This includes having a shorter leg, having muscle spasms or lifting any heavyweight objects.
In some people, there are problems in the spine when bones are formed.
These bones do not separate from each other or are not formed completely usually during fetal development.
People develop a C-shaped spinal curvature and have weak muscles that do not hold the spine up straight.
If this is present at birth, it is called congenital scoliosis.
It usually occurs in people who have other neuromuscular disorders like cerebral palsy and spina bifida.
This is a severe kind of scoliosis that requires aggressive treatment.
Congenital scoliosis is present from birth but it may be diagnosed till teenage.
This type develops in old age, unlike the others.
People with arthritis and osteoporosis, develop changes in their spine known as spondylosis.
As the time span of the disease increases, the ligaments and soft tissue weaken.
Moreover, abnormal bone spurs occur which form the C-shaped curve.
Disc degeneration and vertebral compression fractures can also affect the spine.
It usually develops on the lower back due to the wear out of discs and joints.
Infections and injuries on the spine can also form scoliosis.
Risks and Complications
Young children are more at risk to develop scoliosis especially girls.
If you are a girl then ages 9 to 15 are the riskiest.
Boys are also at a risk but the curve worsens more in girls.
Moreover, it can be hereditary. Hence, if you have a family history of scoliosis, your children are susceptible to it too.
People with this condition as children will get more back problems as adults.
Moreover, if the condition worsens, the rib cage can press the lungs and the heart.
Therefore, reducing the space between them and making it difficult to breathe and pump.
It also greatly affects your appearance if severe.
Your hips, shoulders waist and ribs will be affected.
Your waist and trunk may shift towards the side, therefore your self-esteem will be affected and you may become self-conscious.
The main symptom is a curve in the spine.
It can be a slight change at first which is usually noticed by close friends and family.
You may notice that some of your clothes do not fit anymore and their pants size will be different.
Your one-shoulder blade might seem more prominent, a hip higher than the other and an uneven waist.
In worse conditions, your ribs might stick from one side due to the spine twisting and you may feel regular back pain.
Additionally, you will have a stiff back, feel pain and even numbness in your legs and the muscle strain can cause fatigue.
Mild curves are neither that noticeable nor painful.
However, your child’s’ teachers and schoolmates may notice scoliosis.
Take your child to your doctor whenever you notice these curves.
These indicate the signs and symptoms of scoliosis and take them to the doctor before it starts affecting their quality of life.
Diagnosis and Tests
Your doctor will conduct a physical exam.
They will ask you or your child to bend forward and observe if some ribs are protruding out.
Moreover, they will check the unevenness of the hips and shoulder.
Furthermore, doctors can detect any changes in the skin to diagnose congenital scoliosis.
A neurological exam will test for muscle strength, abnormal reflexes and numbness in the legs.
A simple X-ray can detect the curves in your spine as well as their severity.
If your doctor suspects a tumor or something even more serious they may also suggest getting an MRI.
There are more chances of scoliosis increasing if you have more years left for full skeletal growth.
Keeping that in mind, the doctor will set up further visits for your child.
Usually, girls body matures by 14.5 years and for boys its 16.5 years.
But your doctor may carry out additional X-rays of your hands, pelvis and wrists to understand how much more your child will grow.
Most people do not require a brace because they have mild scoliosis.
Therefore, they will not require any aggressive treatment however, they may have to visit the doctor regularly.
They need to be monitored regularly to check for any changes in the curvature.
Factors Affecting Treatment
The treatment depends on factors such as :
- Your sex
If you are a girl, you have more chances of scoliosis to worsen and progress.
- Severity and shape of the curve
S-shaped curves that are larger in size have more chances of worsening than C-shaped curves.
- Curves in thoracic section
Scoliosis in the thoracic section is likely to worsen more than those in the upper and lower spine.
- Skeletal growth and maturity
If a child’s bone growth has stopped, their scoliosis will not worsen.
However, that also means that treatments such as braces are more effective on children that are still growing.
Usually, mild scoliosis does not require any treatment.
However, if the curvature is between 20 to 40 degrees and your bones are still growing (applies to children) then you will need a brace.
A brace will not cure the condition but it will stop it from worsening and progressing further.
You will have to wear a brace regularly. It is more effective if worn for long hours.
But do not worry about it appearing under your clothes.
A brace is made of plastic and is fit to your body.
It fits right around your rib cage and under the arms, covering your back and hips.
Moreover, it does not restrict any physical and body movements, however, your kid can take it off for sports activities.
Children are advised to stop using the brace when their bone growth stops.
This occurs about 2 years after girls start menstruating and when boys have facial hair enough that they need to shave daily.
Though, you can also simply notice their height. If it stops growing, they do not need the brace anymore.
Therefore, the brace is not recommended to people who get scoliosis in old age.
Your doctor may recommend a spinal fusion surgery if they suspect that the curve will get worse.
In this scoliosis surgery, the doctor will connect two bones in the spine.
This prevents them from growing independently.
Bone like pieces or bone pieces are placed between these bones.
Wires or metal rods are used to hold the spine up.
In the meanwhile, the old and new bone fuse together.
If the scoliosis progress rapidly at a young age, your doctor may insert a rod.
The rod is placed between the top and bottom spine curve.
The rod’s length is increased every 6 months.
However, some complications may exist like nerve damage and bleeding.
Exercise and any home remedies cannot cure or heal scoliosis.
In fact, certain physical activities like yoga and pilates can worsen the condition.
Physical therapy can help ease this condition but not cure it.
However, you can try diet and herbal therapies.
Moreover, you can use a gel memory foam with adjustable height.
But do consult your doctor before trying any lifestyle changes and home remedies.
Mild scoliosis might go away on its own and may not require any treatment, just regular doctor visits to keep it in check.
However, untreated severe scoliosis can deform the spine.
It is serious and painful and it will not allow you to walk or work properly.
Therefore, it is essential to get checked timely.
Timely treatment can help reduce severe scoliosis complications, especially for your child.
If you suspect scoliosis in your child and yourself, reach out to the health experts at Al Qudrah Medical Center soon.