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Scoliosis: Treatment, symptoms, and causes

Scoliosis: Treatment, symptoms, and causes

Scoliosis is a medical condition in which a person’s spine has a sideways curve. The curve is usually “S”- or “C”-shaped. In some, the degree of curve is stable, while in others, it increases over time.

Symptoms
It is usually first noticed by a change in appearance of the back.

Typical signs include:

  • a visibly curved spine
  • one shoulder being higher than the other
  • one shoulder or hip being more prominent than the other
  • a prominent ribcage
  • a difference in leg lengths

Back pain is common in adults with scoliosis. Young people, average age from 10 -12-year-old with scoliosis may also experience some discomfort but it’s less likely to be severe.

Causes
Some types of scoliosis have a directly identifiable cause.  Neuromuscular scoliosis, for example, occurs when a disease such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy causes the spine to develop a scoliosis.  Congenital scoliosis arises due to a failure of the bones to form properly.  Degenerative scoliosis happens in late adulthood due to degeneration of the spinal discs.  Traumatic scoliosis can occur as a result of an accident or surgery.  All of these types of scoliosis, however, comprise less than 20% of the diagnosed cases.  The vast majority of scoliosis cases diagnosed (over 80%) are termed idiopathic.

Idiopathic means, “without known cause.”  It doesn’t mean there is no cause – simply that it is not readily apparent.

Treatment
When there is a confirmed diagnosis of scoliosis, there are several issues to assess that can help determine treatment options:

  • Spinal maturity – is the patient’s spine still growing and changing?
  • Degree and extent of curvature – how severe is the curve and how does it affect the patient’s lifestyle?
  • Location of curve – according to some experts, thoracic curves are more likely to progress than curves in other regions of the spine.
  • Possibility of curve progression – patients who have large curves prior to their adolescent growth spurts are more likely to experience curve progression.

After these variables are assessed, the following treatment options may be recommended:

  • Observation
  • Bracing
  • Surgery


Bracing

Braces are only effective in patients who have not reached skeletal maturity. If the child is still growing and his or her curve is between 20 degrees and 40 degrees, a brace may be recommended to prevent the curve from progressing. There are several different types of braces available. While there is some disagreement among experts as to which type of brace is most effective, large studies indicate that braces, when used with full compliance, successfully stop curve progression in children with scoliosis. For optimal effectiveness, the brace should be checked regularly to assure a proper fit.It is also advisable to wear a thin cotton t-shirt with sleeve under the brace to prevent any abrasion. Brace should only be taken out during eating and exercising.

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