What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis can be best defined as a curve of the spine.  When patients without scoliosis are x-rayed head on, their spine looks straight.  When a patient with scoliosis is x-rayed head on the spine will looked curved.  There are many types of curves that can occur in patients with scoliosis.  The severity of the condition is determined by the amount of degrees of the curve of the spine.  The higher the number of degrees the more severe the scoliosis.


There are different types of scoliosis in patients.  Here is a review of the most common forms:


Idiopathic Scoliosis is the most common of all.  Idiopathic simply means that there is no real known cause for the curve in the spine.  Although the reason for the curve in unknown in these cases there does seem to be evidence that it is genetic or inherited.


Congenital Scoliosis is a form of scoliosis that is present at birth.  This is normally due to a defect in the patient's bones.


Degenerative Scoliosis is usually caused by a thinning of patient's bones most commonly found in people with severe osteoporosis.  This is more common in older patients.  This form of scoliosis can aslo be due to injury or illness that can affect bone structure.


Neuromuscular Scoliosis occurs in patients that also have conditions such as spina bifida or cerebral palsy.  It is due to problems with abnormal muscles or nerves.


Only about 2% of people in the United States suffer from scoliosis and most of those patients have very minor cases.  WebMD reports that only 0.1% (1 in 1000) of patients have curve that is greater than 40 degrees.  In these severe cases the most common form of treatment is corrective surgery.  In cases below 40% doctors will often recommend using a brace to try and slow the progression of the disease and to correct the angle of the curve.  Girls are more likely than boys to get scoliosis.  Most of the patients affected are between the ages of 10 and 16.  The condition normally becomes more severe after puberty has started and the patient starts to grow.


Patients are often diagnosed with scoliosis by their family physician or chiropractor.  Patients with the condition are usually identified by their uneven shoulders, waist or because they lean to one side.  If a patient with scoliosis bends over it is common to see a bump on their back instead of seeing a leveled back.


Treatment for scoliosis is limited but it can be very effective.  In patients with larger curves up to 40 degrees bracing is the most common treatment.  In patients above 40 degrees doctors will often consider surgery due to the fact that it is common for the curve to continue to progress year after year.  Surgery is necessary to prevent damage or stress on a patient's organs.  If fusion surgery is performed in children it will prevent them from growing to their full potential due to the fusion of part of their spine.


Exercise has been shown to help patients with pain related to the condition and there are several stretches that can also benefit patients even though studies have found them to be prevent the progression of the condition.









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