Scoliosis symptoms

Teenagers (and even adults) who have a bad habit of hunching over all the time are actually pretty lucky. To correct their posture, they merely have to straighten up. Even those people for whom hunching over has become second nature, they can lose the habit with a bit of dedicated effort. They are infinitely better off than 3% of the world’s population – the ones born with scoliosis. In the United States alone, there are 7 million people for whom a rigid, military stance is physically impossible.

Scoliosis is classified as a musculoskeletal disorder which causes the spine to be curved from side to side rather than growing in a straight line like a normal spine. The result is a spine which is either S-shaped or C-shaped, when viewed from the rear. While most cases of scoliosis are very mild, there are people whose scoliosis is so severe as to be almost completely disabling. Large scoliotic curves can affect proper heart function and even lead to heart failure. They can also severely diminish lung capacity, and cause chronic back pain.

The cause of most cases of scoliosis is still not very clear. There may be several causes, and even physical trauma cannot be ruled out. Scoliosis can be of three types. The first is Congenital scoliosis which occurs because of defects in the vertebra which occur in the womb. The second is Neuromuscular scoliosis which occurs as a secondary symptom of diseases like spina bifida, cerebral palsy, spinal muscular atrophy. The third and most common kind of scoliosis, idiopathic scoliosis, is the baffling one because there is no clear cause at all.

Idiopathic scoliosis is most often seen in adolescents. There is certainly a hereditary factor, because research has shown that scoliosis runs in families. Scoliosis usually shows itself during a growth spurt, and girls are about eight times more likely to have very severely curved spines than boys, and require surgery. However, most scoliosis cases are perfectly safe and no treatment is necessary.

Scoliosis symptoms are sometimes hard to miss. The only clues may be uneven shoulders, or one shoulder blade being more prominent than the other. The hips may also appear uneven, and one hip can be higher than the other. In girls, the breasts may not be symmetrical, and if scoliosis is very severe, the ribs may stick out on one side as the vertebra twist, which gives rise to back pain and breathing problems.

To be absolutely sure, it is best to do an X-ray of the spine, and children suspected of having scoliosis must have regular X-rays done to see if their still-growing spines are curving properly. Adolescents have a very high risk of developing severe scoliosis because a great deal of bone growth occurs at that age. The older a person is, the lesser their chances of developing severe scoliosis.

Scoliosis has two main types of treatment. The first involves braces and is usually used for children and adolescents. This is not a cure, but it prevents the spine from curving any further while the bones are still growing. The braces are worn all the time, night and day, and the longer they are worn the better the results.

Surgery is the other treatment, for when braces will not do the job. Scoliosis surgery involves spinal fusion, a process where the bones of the spine are joined using screws and pins. When the bones heal, the shape is straight instead of curved.

Scoliosis patients can lead very normal, even successful lives. Celebrities like Chloe Sevigny and Kurt Kobain have scoliosis – and they haven’t let it hold them back.


Last updated on Apr 22nd, 2010 and filed under Musculoskeletal Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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