Back & Neck Conditions
Scoliosis: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. It can be detected in children but may not be discovered until adulthood depending on the type or cause, symptoms, and severity of the curvature.
In the article, we share the scoliosis definition, meaning, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine, or backbone, develops a curved shape. The curve can be "S" or "C" shaped and can occur in any part of the spine, but most commonly affects the thoracic (mid-back) and lumbar (lower back) regions. Scoliosis can occur in children, scoliosis in adults is more common, but it is most commonly diagnosed during adolescence.
While mild scoliosis can occur in people with conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, the childhood scoliosis cause is unknown. It is not always clear what causes scoliosis, but some other possible causes include genetics, neuromuscular disorders, and congenital (present at birth) conditions.
Most cases of scoliosis are mild, but in some people, the curve worsens with time. In worst cases, scoliosis can reduce the amount of space in the chest, making it harder to breathe. Symptoms
Scoliosis symptoms can include uneven shoulders, a raised hip, and a tilted waistline, but in many cases, the condition does not cause any symptoms. However, if the curvature is severe, it can lead to problems with breathing, balance, and mobility.
Scoliosis can also be asymptomatic, meaning it doesn't cause any noticeable symptoms. However, if the curvature is severe, it can lead to problems with breathing, balance, and mobility, and scoliosis pain.
The signs and symptoms of scoliosis can vary depending on the severity of the curvature and the location of the curve in the spine. Some common signs of scoliosis include:
- Uneven shoulders. One shoulder may appear higher than the other
- A raised hip. One hip may appear higher than the other
- A tilted waistline. The waistline may appear uneven or tilted
- A hump on the back. A prominence may develop on the back, caused by the curvature of the spine
- Uneven rib cage. The rib cage may appear uneven or asymmetrical
- A leaning posture. The patient may lean to one side
It's important to note that scoliosis can also be asymptomatic, meaning it doesn't cause any noticeable symptoms. However, if the curvature is severe, it can lead to problems with breathing, balance, and mobility. Therefore, it's important to have regular check-ups with a doctor, especially during growth spurts and adolescence.
If you suspect you or a loved one has scoliosis, it's important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. They will be able to use diagnostic tools such as X-rays or MRI scans to confirm the diagnosis and measure the degree of curvature. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to preventing the curve from getting worse and preserving the quality of life.
Some common types of scoliosis include:
- Idiopathic scoliosis: This is the most common type of scoliosis and it occurs in people without any known cause. It's more common in adolescents, but it can also occur in adults.
- Congenital scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is present at birth and it's caused by a malformation of the bones in the spine.
- Neuromuscular scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is caused by a neurological disorder or muscle disease, such as cerebral palsy, spinal muscular atrophy, or spina bifida, it is usually associated with some other disorders such as birth defects, cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy.
- Degenerative scoliosis: This type of scoliosis occurs in older adults, it's caused by the degeneration of the discs and joints in the spine. Scoliosis can also be classified according to the location of the curve in the spine:
- Thoracic scoliosis: It's located in the upper part of the spine (mid-back)
- Lumbar scoliosis: It's located in the lower part of the spine (lower back)
- Thoracolumbar scoliosis: it's located in both upper and lower parts of the spine
It's also important to note that the curve of the spine can be classified according to its magnitude, this is known as the Cobb angle, it's a measure of the degree of curvature in scoliosis.
Diagnosis of scoliosis typically begins with a physical examination, during which the doctor will look for signs of abnormal spinal curvature and any related symptoms. The doctor may also use diagnostic tools such as X-rays or MRI scans to confirm the diagnosis and measure the degree of curvature.
Early diagnosis and treatment can help you prevent the curve from getting worse and save your quality of life. Regular check-ups with a doctor, especially during growth spurts and adolescence, can help identify scoliosis early on.
If you suspect you or a loved one has scoliosis, it's important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. They will be able to use diagnostic tools such as X-rays or MRI scans to confirm the diagnosis and measure the degree of curvature.
Scoliosis treatment will depend on the severity of the curve and the patient's age and overall health. In mild cases, observation and monitoring may be all that is needed. In more severe cases, treatment options may include. Physical therapy helps improve strength, flexibility, and balance. Bracing prevents the curve from getting worse and support the spine. Surgery is usually the last choice to correct the curvature of the spine, this option is usually reserved for severe cases or cases where the curve is progressing rapidly.
It's important to note that the success of treatment can vary depending on the individual case and the age of the patient. With proper care, the majority of patients will be able to return to their normal activities and enjoy a good quality of life.
While the exact cause of scoliosis is not always clear, there are certain steps that can be taken to prevent or minimize the risk of developing scoliosis:
- Regular check-ups with a doctor, especially during growth spurts and adolescence, can help identify scoliosis early on.
- Maintaining good posture can help prevent scoliosis from getting worse. Encourage your children to stand up straight and walk with their shoulders back.
- Regular exercise can help strengthen the muscles that support the spine, which can help prevent scoliosis from getting worse.
- Proper lifting techniques can help prevent injury to the spine and reduce the risk of scoliosis.
While these steps can help prevent scoliosis or minimize the risk of developing scoliosis, they are not a guarantee that a person will not develop the condition. Scoliosis can be caused by a number of factors, and some cases may not be preventable.
It's important to note that scoliosis can be asymptomatic, meaning it doesn't cause any noticeable symptoms, regular check-ups are important to detect it early.
"We don't know how to prevent scoliosis," says Dr. Kadimcherla, "and we cannot cure it. But we have excellent treatment options that reduce its effects and prevent its advance. Early detection is important in achieving the best possible result."