What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis can occur often in childhood or adolescence and usually happens more to girls than to boys. A characteristic sign is leaning to the side and having an unusual stance. The naked eye can usually see it, but sometimes it isn't easy to diagnose without a physical exam.
The cause of scoliosis is unknown. However, some doctors and researchers believe it can run in families. Continued study has led them to believe that genes and hormones are involved..
Some children develop scoliosis as a secondary response when other diseases or disorders are already present, such as congenital factors, genetic disease, spine injury from trauma or accident, neuromuscular disease, and tumors.
Some characteristic signs of scoliosis are:
- Asymmetric shoulders
- Uneven hips
- Asymmetric rib cage
Diagnosis for scoliosis
Scoliosis is diagnosed through a combination of a physical exam and x-rays. Often, your child will have a screening in school and then will follow up in a doctor's office. The doctor will assess family and medical history and do a physical exam with x-rays to determine the severity of the condition.
Treatment for scoliosis
Scoliosis treatment depends on several factors, including the age when you get your diagnosis and the severity of the curvature. There aren’t any medications that can help treat it.
In some cases, the person only requires checkups and monitoring. More severe cases may require a brace or even surgery.
For milder cases, observation and regular checkups are key to monitoring scoliosis. When a person with scoliosis is still growing, you should carefully monitor them to see if the condition is getting worse. You may see a family doctor, pediatrician, physical therapist, or orthopedist for monitoring. If the curve is getting worse, then your doctor will discuss further treatment options.
It is becoming more common for families to seek out alternative therapies for milder cases of scoliosis. Yoga, physical therapy, and chiropractic treatments are a few ways you can treat it naturally.
Bracing is often used in moderate cases of scoliosis when an adolescent is still growing. They will have a brace fitted to them and need to wear it for a certain number of hours each day.
A brace is effective when worn as directed. However, in some cases, as the adolescent continues to grow, the brace is not sufficient to stop the curvature. If this happens, the doctor may suggest surgery.
Doctors may recommend surgery depending on your age and the angle of the curve. The surgery or spinal fusion is a successful way to treat the spine's curvature when it is greater than 45 or 50 degrees.
The spinal fusion will realign and connect the vertebrae into one single piece. Spinal fusion surgery uses a bone graft, which helps seal the fusion.
A bone graft is created by using small bone pieces between the vertebrae to allow the bones to fuse and heal. They promote bone healing and stimulate bone production.
Your doctor may use metal rods to hold the spine together during the fusing process. These rods connect to the spine through screws and hooks. Spinal fusion surgery takes 4 to 8 hours, depending on the person's specific curvature.
Scoliosis surgeons can successfully treat the spinal curve and make significant improvements on the curvature. Depending on the degree of curvature, your surgeon can correct it to a noticeable level. However, it will still have a slight curve.
The level of scoliosis flexibility determines the degree to which a surgeon can correct it. A doctor will check this before surgery and assess to what degree they can align the curve.
Possible risks and complications
If your medical professional determines that surgery is necessary, they will assess the benefits and risks that apply to your specific degree of curvature. Here are some of the risks to surgery:
- Infection can be a risk of up to 2 to 3 years post-surgery
- Failure of the bone to fuse is a possibility and cannot be determined until several years post-surgery
- Injury to the spinal cord could cause paralysis in the lower extremities
Despite these risk factors, the overall rate of complications is fairly low. The hospital stay is generally 4 to 5 days, and you can begin normal daily activities after 4 to 6 weeks.
You can resume a full return to regular activities after anywhere from 3 to 6 months, depending on your specific circumstances. Most people have some pain initially that is managed through prescription pain medication.
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National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "Scoliosis in Children and Teens."
OrthoInfo: "Surgical Treatment for Scoliosis."
University of Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine: "Spinal Fusion for the Treatment of Idiopathic Scoliosis in Children."
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Can You Correct Scoliosis With Exercise?Scoliosis may worsen with age in some patients. The curve may increase with or without increasing the pain. Many patients fear that the only treatment for getting relief from the pain will be a spine surgery. However, many patients do not need surgery. With the right workout or exercise regime, you can maintain the curve, help relieve the pain, and halt the progression of your scoliosis.
How Does Scoliosis Affect the Body?What is scoliosis? Learn the causes and symptoms of scoliosis, how it affects the spine, and how it is treated.
What Is Scoliosis?Scoliosis causes an abnormal curvature of the spine. When the cause of scoliosis is unknown the disorder is described based on the age when the scoliosis develops (infantile, juvenile, or adolescent idiopathic scoliosis). In functional scoliosis, curvature develops due to a problem somewhere else in the body. With neuromuscular scoliosis, there is a problem when the bones of the spine are formed. Treatment typically involves observation, bracing, and surgery and is dependent upon the severity of the curvature.
What Is the Main Cause of Scoliosis?Scoliosis is an abnormality of the spine in which the spine curves abnormally to the side (laterally). In almost 80% of cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown. This type of scoliosis is known as idiopathic scoliosis and is most common in adolescent girls.