You’ve probably heard about scoliosis when you were in elementary school. Exams were often done in elementary schools because scoliosis most often develops in adolescent children between the ages of 10 and 15. With 5 to 7 million people in the United States being diagnosed with scoliosis and more than a half million visits to the doctor’s office each year for evaluation and treatment, you should learn about scoliosis.
What is Scoliosis?
According to Webmd, “Scoliosis is a lateral (toward the side) curvature in the normally straight vertical line of the spine.” The spine has a normal curve to it if you look from the side, but appears straight if you are looking at it straight on. People with scoliosis develop a spine twist where the bones form a “C” or an “S” shape. If this curvature is larger than 10 degrees, it is considered scoliosis. Curves that are less than 10 degrees are just postural changes.
Scoliosis is more common in girls than boys. Scoliosis is also hereditary meaning people with scoliosis are more likely to have children with scoliosis. (There is no severity correlation between one generation to the next).
What are the Symptoms and Signs of Scoliosis?
The most common sign of scoliosis is the abnormal curve of the spine. It may start out as a mild change, so you may miss it until it becomes severe. One hip or shoulder may be higher on the opposite side. You may notice your clothes not fitting properly. One example would be that one of your pant legs are longer on one side. In most cases, scoliosis is not painful, but you could have chest pain, shortness of breath or back pain because the twisting vertebrae is making it difficult for the heart and lungs to work properly.
What are the Treatment Options for Scoliosis?
The severity of the curve determines the treatment options for people with scoliosis. There are three main categories of treatment which include: Observation, bracing and surgery.
Careful observation is the most common treatment for those with mild scoliosis. These people often do not progress and have very little physical problems. Because scoliosis occurs most often in adolescents, bracing is generally reserved for children that do not have a mature skeleton structure. They often have a curve with a 25-45 degree angle. For those that have a curve greater than 45 degrees, surgery is often recommended. The severity of angle of the spine and bones may affect the functions of vital organs like the lungs or heart.
Other spinal manipulations such as therapeutic or electrical muscle stimulation have been advocated to treat scoliosis. It’s important to note that most people with scoliosis lead normal, productive lives. As any medical condition, it is important to get regular exercise, eat well and monitor your condition.