Scoliosis

What is Scoliosis? Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves sideways or away from the middle of the back. Most cases of scoliosis are mild, but extreme cases can cause difficulty with lung function and breathing.

What causes Scoliosis? There are three main causes of scoliosis – idiopathic, congenital, and neuromuscular. The most common type is idiopathic, which occurs in adolescents but has no known cause. Congenital scoliosis arises due to a malformation of the spine in utero and can cause many complications. Neuromuscular scoliosis is caused by muscle weakness or paralysis due to certain diseases (such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy). Scoliosis appears to have some hereditary component and curve progression occurs in girls more often than boys.

What are the symptoms of Scoliosis? Symptoms of scoliosis may include an unevenness noticed in the shoulders, hips, waist or pelvis, backache, fatigue of the back after prolonged standing or sitting in one position, or a noticeable curve to the side of the spine. In many cases, no symptoms are noticed before an adolescent is identified as having scoliosis through a routine school or medical screening. Severe cases of scoliosis may cause the spine to rotate as well as curving sideways, causing back pain and difficulty breathing.

How is Scoliosis diagnosed? A medical professional will perform a physical exam and will ask the individual to bend forward from the waist with arms hanging towards the ground in order to determine whether a curve is seen in the spine. If a curve is seen upon physical exam, x-rays will be ordered to better determine the extent and location of the curve. If a curve is noted, a neurological exam will be performed to determine issues with reflexes, strength and sensation, and an MRI may be ordered as well.

When should I seek care for Scoliosis? If you suspect that you or your child may have scoliosis, or if your child is identified during a routine screening at school as possibly having scoliosis, you should seek medical advice. Prompt treatment of the condition is important in order to achieve the most successful outcome. Those with mild forms of scoliosis that wear a brace can stop further curvature of the spine, avoiding later surgery.

What will the treatment for Scoliosis consist of? Treatment for scoliosis will depend on the amount of curvature of the spine, where the curvature occurs, how much more growing a person will do, and the cause of the condition. Many cases of scoliosis require no treatment other than watching to make sure that the condition does not become more severe, but for those that do require treatment, bracing is usually done to slow the progression of the curve. Surgery is recommended in more severe cases to straighten out the spine, but is normally not performed until a child stops growing.

Which muscle groups/joints are commonly affected by Scoliosis? Scoliosis affects the spine. In severe cases, the rib cage may also be affected due to a rotating of the spine, and when this happens, heart and lung function may be compromised.

What type of results should I expect from the treatment of Scoliosis? The results of scoliosis treatment will depend on the extent of the curve and the cause of the condition. In general, the greater the curve is, the more likelihood that there will long-term issues of the spine. Most mild cases of scoliosis require no treatment or can be rectified with bracing alone or bracing and surgery and usually there are no long-term effects, except a greater likelihood of back pain as the individual gets older. Individuals with congenital scoliosis or neuromuscular scoliosis will also have other medical issues and may have long term issues as a result of the condition.

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