Scoliosis is a term most of us know from regular examinations as a child, even if we don’t fully understand what it is. By definition, scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that often occurs before puberty during a growth spurt. It is one of three main types of spine curvature disorders.
Types of Scoliosis
There are two general categories of scoliosis–structural and nonstructural. The former is the most common and includes the types of scoliosis in which spinal rotation is present in addition to the side-to-side curvature of the spine. These are:
- Idiopathic Scoliosis is the most common type, accounting for about 80% of all cases. While it can start as early as infancy, it most often occurs in children ages 10 to 12 years old. Some research suggests that genetics are a factor, but the cause of idiopathic scoliosis is currently unknown.
- Degenerative scoliosis, commonly referred to as adult scoliosis, develops as the joints in the spine degenerate.
- Neuromuscular scoliosis, sometimes called myopic scoliosis, refers to cases that develop in those who are unable to walk as a result of a neuromuscular condition like muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy.
- Congenital scoliosis develops in utero and remains present in infancy. This type is considered rare, only affecting 1 in 10,000 babies.
Nonstructural scoliosis is not caused by a spine condition or disease, but rather another underlying condition that pushes or pulls the spine in one direction such as muscle spasms, a difference in leg lengths and inflammation.
Signs and Symptoms
In most cases, signs and symptoms of scoliosis will first start to appear just prior to puberty in children. While it is not often that we take a look at the biomechanics of our kids, it is important to keep an eye out for the following:
- Uneven shoulders
- Head is not centered above the pelvis
- One or both hips are raised unusually high
- One side of the rib cage is higher than the other when bending forward
- Waist is uneven
- The entire body leans to one side
Most of what we see with the early stages of scoliosis are caused by the body attempting to compensate for the spine’s curvature. Our muscles and bones are set to have a certain alignment that will give them the best mechanical advantage possible. When this is altered due to structural deformities, the body automatically shifts at the joints above and below the spine in an effort to compensate.
Through imaging, an X-ray will visibly display the curvature and the extent of the shift that has occurred.
While there are some conditions such as cerebral palsy that can cause it, the normal manifestation of scoliosis often occurs for unknown reasons. There are some factors that can predispose an individual to a higher likelihood, including family history or gender, as females are much more likely to develop the condition than males are.
If left untreated, scoliosis has the ability to cause some serious health problems as it progresses. Due to the structural deformity, it can cause subsequent shifts throughout the body cavity. This shift has the ability to place added stress on the lungs and surrounding joints, potentially compromising lung capacity.
Additionally, as the disease progresses it has the ability to cause severe back pain and obvious physical deformity, giving the appearance of decreased height by a substantial margin.
Treatment of scoliosis is usually dependent on the severity of the condition as well as the age of the patient. and how developed their bones are. Curves in the middle of the spine are often seen as more severe and must be addressed quickly.
In the most extreme cases, a surgical technique known as spinal fusion is used to fuse the vertebra together to disallow any subsequent damage from occurring. If the disease is progressing too rapidly, some surgeons will opt to insert a metal rod that can be adjusted as needed.
Dealing with scoliosis can prove to be very challenging depending on the severity of the disease. In more extreme cases, it is recommended that patient’s and families seek counsel for dealing with the emotional stress that may accompany treatment and lifestyle changes leading up to and following intervention.
How Dr. Nael Shanti Can Help
Dr. Nael Shanti has extensive experience in treating a wide variety of spinal conditions, including adult scoliosis. If you or someone you love are experiencing any of the symptoms commonly associated with scoliosis, call (919) 297-0000 to schedule an appointment.