Definition of Scoliosis
Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine, resulting in an obvious side-to-side bend, or curve. It has three main aspects: structural scoliosis, functional scoliosis, and nonstructural scoliosis. Structural scoliosis is a long-term curvature in the spine, caused by a permanent defect in the back bones themselves, or in the attachments of muscles, tendons, and ligaments to the vertebrae. Functional scoliosis is a short-term or temporary curve resulting from an outside force or influence, such as foot imbalance or muscle spasms. Nonstructural scoliosis is similar in its symptoms to functional scoliosis, but the source of the curve is not identified, and it tends to correct itself over time. All types of scoliosis can cause discomfort, pain, and difficulty breathing, and if it worsens, spine surgery may be recommended. When scoliosis is present, it can cause the torso to be concave to the left or right.
Causes of Scoliosis
Scoliosis is a condition in the spine that causes it to curve to the side. The most common type of scoliosis affects the thoracic spine and tapers to the left. While the exact cause of scoliosis is unknown, it is believed that genetics, muscle imbalances, and poor posture can all contribute to the development of the condition. In some cases, deformities in the spine that occur during fetal growth can result in scoliosis, as can certain neurological conditions like cerebral palsy. The risk of developing scoliosis increases in those who are born prematurely or with a low birth weight, or in those who are exposed to certain environmental toxins. Over time, the condition can lead to complications, such as a decrease in mobility and pain in the spine and neck, if left untreated. Early detection of scoliosis is essential in order to get the most out of treatments and prevent the condition from getting worse.
Symptoms of Scoliosis
Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine has a side to side curve, making the normal shape of the spine look like an “S” or a “C” shape when viewed from the back. Symptoms of scoliosis can include pain or discomfort, an uneven shoulder or shoulder blade, one shoulder or hip being higher or protruding more than the other, rib or vertebrae deformity, an uneven waistline, or clothes fitting differently on one side. As the curve increases and worsens, the back can even appear “twisted”. Patients may also experience difficulty with physical activity due to the strain on the spine and experience shortness of breath if the rib cage is deformed enough to compress the lungs. Unfortunately, scoliosis can only be managed rather than cured completely. With treatment, the curve may be kept from increasing and the symptoms managed, so that the patient can still have a good quality of life.
Diagnosis of Scoliosis
Accurately diagnosing scoliosis is key for treating the condition effectively. The most common diagnostic test for scoliosis is an X-ray exam, which allows doctors to see the curvature of the spine, as well as any changes in shape or backbone alignment. In some cases, MRI scans or CT scans may be used to gain a better understanding of the condition. When scoliosis is detected, doctors may use additional tests to determine the cause. These tests often include a physical exam, blood tests and possibly an electrocardiogram to check for heart problems related to the condition. The results of these tests are used to create a plan of care tailored to the unique condition of the individual.
Treatment of Scoliosis
Treating scoliosis is essential to avoid any degeneration of the spine, maintain a good posture and stop further curves. Depending on the severity of the curve, different types of treatment may be recommended by the doctor. Non-surgical treatments, such as physical therapy and bracing, are available for minor scoliosis. Physical therapy involves a series of exercises and stretches to improve the body’s strength and flexibility. Bracing is used to help hold the spine in the correct position and stop the curve from progressing. In more severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary. In these scenarios, the surgeon will usually use rods and screws to secure the spine while they correct the curve. The procedure is usually followed by physical therapy and bracing in order to help maintain the correct alignment and prevent any recurrence of scoliosis.
Prevention of Scoliosis
Preventing scoliosis is a complex endeavor, as the exact cause of the disorder is still unknown. However, there are steps that can be taken to reduce an individual’s risk of developing scoliosis. One of the most important steps is to ensure that children receive regular check-ups with their doctors and that parents are aware of unusual changes in posture or symmetry. Additionally, it is recommended to ensure that children are getting enough exercise and are consuming a healthy, balanced diet. Making sure that children follow good posture when sitting, standing and walking can also help in preventing scoliosis. Finally, if scoliosis is detected early and treated appropriately with the help of a physician, it can often be controlled and managed, thus reducing the severity and potential long-term risks associated with the condition.
Complications of Scoliosis
Scoliosis can cause many complications to the health of an individual. It can cause pain and discomfort in the back, chest and neck area. In extreme cases, it can cause abnormal heart and lung function. The spine can be compressed and can lead to nerve damage. Additionally, scoliosis can limit physical activity, cause nerve compression, and reduce lung capacity, making it difficult to perform everyday activities. Furthermore, scoliosis can lead to a curvature of the spine that affects the entire body, changing the way a person stands, sits and moves. This can lead to an imbalance in the body and can cause discomfort, pain and even posture-related problems.
Prognosis of Scoliosis
Scoliosis is a condition that is not always easy to predict and is usually diagnosed with an X-ray. While some cases of scoliosis may not progress and may even improve with time, other cases can worsen and require surgical intervention. The prognosis of scoliosis depends on the severity of the curvature and the age of the patient. If the curve is mild and the patient is still growing, the curve may improve without treatment. However, if the curve is more severe or has been present for a long time, surgery may be recommended. Depending on the type of surgery, the outcome for the patient can range from good to excellent. In any case, good post-operative care is essential for a successful outcome.