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Scoliosis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Scoliosis is a common spine condition, affecting between 6-9 million people in the United States.1
Some cases of scoliosis are mild and only cause a few symptoms that can be monitored. Other cases can be severe to the point of causing pain and mobility issues.
Here are some facts about scoliosis and its different types, as well as the causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis causes a person to have a sideways twist or curve in their spine.2 The spine is made up of the vertebrae, which are a stack of rectangular building blocks. These vertebrae normally allow the spine to straighten and do not affect a person’s posture.3
Curves in the spine may be considered small or large. However, when the curve measures more than 10 degrees on an X-ray, it is considered scoliosis.4
Types of Scoliosis
- Idiopathic scoliosis. Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common spinal deformity. In this case, the spine curves like the letter “S” or “C.” The spine may also rotate or twist, which can pull on the ribs.5
- Neuromuscular scoliosis. Neuromuscular scoliosis is the second most common form of scoliosis. This type is associated with nerve or muscular disorders such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or spinal cord injuries.6
- Congenital scoliosis. This is a rare type of scoliosis caused by a defect that was present at birth.7
What Causes Scoliosis?
Doctors are unsure as to what exactly causes the most common forms of scoliosis, but they believe hereditary factors play a role.8
Less common types of scoliosis may have a certain cause due to other medical conditions, such as:
- Neuromuscular conditions such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy
- Birth defects affecting the spine
- Injuries or infections of the spine
- Spinal cord abnormalities
Some factors put certain individuals more at risk for developing scoliosis.
- Age. Scoliosis is more common in children and teens when they’re still growing at a rapid pace.2
- Sex. Scoliosis is more common in females than males.
- Genetics. Scoliosis sometimes runs in the family, but oftentimes it is not hereditary.8
Symptoms of Scoliosis
Some of the noticeable physical symptoms of scoliosis include:
- A difference in shoulder height
- A difference in hip height or position
- A difference in the way the arms hang beside the body
- Asymmetry in the ribs seen from the front or back3
Some of the other symptoms that may accompany scoliosis include:
- Low back pain
- Back stiffness
- Pain or numbness in the legs from pinched nerves
If you notice any symptoms of scoliosis in yourself or a loved one, go see a doctor. It’s best to be aware of the condition before it worsens or requires surgery.
Treatment for Scoliosis
When a doctor is diagnosing someone with scoliosis, they will perform a physical examination to look at the spine and how it moves. The Adam’s Forward Bend Test is commonly used to diagnose idiopathic scoliosis, and it checks for abnormal spine rotation. Additionally, an X-ray is required for an official diagnosis.9
After being diagnosed with scoliosis, patients will see an orthopedic doctor to work on a treatment plan. An orthopedic doctor will determine what is best for a patient based on their age, the type of scoliosis, the measurement of the spine’s curve, and other medical conditions.
Doctors will also take into consideration the severity of the scoliosis and any other problems it might have caused such as pain, limited function, and breathing problems.
There are three categories of treatment options for scoliosis.10
- Observation. 90% of scoliosis cases are mild curves and may not require treatment. Doctors will monitor the curve in the spine and the risk of it worsening over time.
- Back brace. If the curve in the back is between 20 and 40 degrees, the patient’s doctor may recommend wearing a brace to stop the progression of the curve as the patient grows. However, this cannot correct a curve. The goal of this form of treatment is to control the curve in hopes that surgery is not needed.
- Surgery. When curves in the spine are measured between 45 and 50 degrees, they are expected to worsen and lead to other health complications. In these cases, doctors may recommend spinal fusion surgery to stop the increase of curves.
Each year, over 30,000 patients are fitted to wear a brace or undergo surgery for this condition.
Learn More Today
Take the time to learn more about scoliosis today. If you know someone or have a loved one going through this condition and can recognize the symptoms, your knowledge and awareness can help make a difference.
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Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long-term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- “Scoliosis.” American Association of Neurological Surgeons, aans.org. Accessed May 26th, 2022. https://www.aans.org/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Scoliosis#:~:text=Scoliosis%20affects%202%2D3%20percent,occurring%20equally%20among%20both%20genders.
- Novakovic, Alex. “Everything you need to know about scoliosis.” Healthline Media, Medical News Today. August 27th, 2020. Accessed May 25th, 2022. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/190940.
- “Scoliosis.” The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System, hopkinsmedicine.org. Accessed May 25th, 2022. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/scoliosis.
- Wheeler, Tyler. “Scoliosis.” WebMD, webmd.com. August 23rd, 2020. Accessed May 25th, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/causes-scoliosis.
- “Idiopathic Scoliosis.” The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, chop.edu. Accessed May 26th, 2022. https://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/idiopathic-scoliosis.
- “Neuromuscular Scoliosis.” Boston Children’s Hospital, childrenshospital.org. Accessed May 26th, 2022. https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions/neuromuscular-scoliosis#:~:text=Neuromuscular%20scoliosis%20is%20one%20of,bifida%2C%20and%20spinal%20cord%20injury.
- “Congenital Scoliosis.” American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, orthoinfo.asos.org. Accessed May 26th, 2022. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/congenital-scoliosis/.
- “Scoliosis.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayo Clinic. May 4th, 2022. Accessed May 26th, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/scoliosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350716#:~:text=Doctors%20don't%20know%20what,cerebral%20palsy%20or%20muscular%20dystrophy.
- Baaj, Ali. “Scoliosis Diagnosis.” Veritas Health, spine-health.com. January 26th, 2017. Accessed May 26th, 2022. https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/scoliosis/scoliosis-diagnosis.
- Alli, Renee. “What’s the Treatment for Scoliosis?” WebMD, webmd.com. December 19th, 2020. Accessed May 26th, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/treatment-for-scoliosis.