What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a sideways curvature or twist of the spine. Naturally the spine curves forwards and back, but when viewed from behind, the spine should be straight. Some people develop one or multiple scoliotic curves and they can be either progressive (worsening) or stable (not changing). This can occur in both children and adults, with it most commonly starting in children ages 9–15. Scoliosis can rapidly progress over time if not addressed, especially in children. While most cases are considered idiopathic, meaning of unknown origin, research indicates there may be congenital and lifestyle related causes.
Because scoliosis is a weakening of the spine’s structure it can lead to accelerated degeneration and loss of function down the road. Some common signs of scoliosis include: uneven shoulder height, rib humping, poor posture, and weakness. There can also be pain, although this typically comes later and worsens as the person ages or the curve progresses. Heart and lung issues also can occur if the scoliosis becomes severe enough to compress the chest cavity.
When detected and treated early, patients often avoid many or all of the symptoms and negative effects. For most cases proper bracing can reshape, stabilize, and halt the progression of the scoliosis—reducing the need for surgery later on. In severe cases surgery may be necessary to counter the effects on the heart and lungs. Surgical procedures typically fuse the bones of the spine into a straight position with metal rods. This reduces the curvature but leaves that section of the spine unable to move normally.
Types of Scoliosis
Age 0 – 3
Infantile scoliosis typically shows up in the first 6 months of life and may resolve on its own or progress further. Depending on the case treatment can include observation, bracing, or surgery as a last resort.
Age 3 – 9
This type will rarely resolve on its own and 70% of cases will continue to progress, needing active treatment such as bracing and exercises. If left unchecked, surgery may be necessary.
Age 9 – Adulthood
The most common type of scoliosis and 80% are found in females. Usually it begins during the onset of puberty and worsens during growth spurts. This type generally has a better prognosis than juvenile scoliosis but can still become progressive or worsen later in life. It is common for large or rapidly developing curves to be associated with back pain.
Adult (pre-existing or degenerative)
Pre-existing scoliosis usually started as adolescent scoliosis and may be stable or progressive. The key for treatment of pre-existing is observation to see if it is worsening, along with various reduction techniques such as exercises, Scoliroll, or bracing to improve the dysfunction.
Degenerative de-novo scoliosis develops in adults over the age of 45. The cause of this is instability in the spine due to degenerative changes. This can be a result of old injuries, poor spinal health over time, long-term poor posture, and various other conditions that weaken the spine’s integrity. By nature this type is instable and therefore will almost always progress. The most common complaint associated with degenerative scoliosis is back pain. Treatment is comprised of exercises, bracing, Scoliroll, and traction.
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