How does scoliosis affect the body?
Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine, commonly diagnosed during early childhood or the teenage years. The normal curve of the spine is at the cervical, lumbar, and thoracic regions, which are collectively called the sagittal plane.
This natural curve of the spine helps absorb the shock of movement. In scoliosis, this curvature is abnormal. The condition affects 2% to 3% of the population and up to nine million people in the U.S.
Scoliosis develops in early childhood or infancy, but the typical age when you start seeing the symptoms is ten years to 15 years old.
People with scoliosis may feel short of breath since the rib cage can press against their lungs. They may also have back problems, especially if the curve gets bigger and is not treated on time.
Since the spine's normal curve is disturbed during scoliosis, the person feels tired and experiences back pain. Some common symptoms of scoliosis include an uneven waist, uneven shoulders, one hip that is higher than the other, and one shoulder blade being more prominent than the other.
People with scoliosis may also have prominence on one side of their back when they bend forward.
In most cases of scoliosis, the spine twists and rotates, along with curving from side to side. Due to this, the muscles or ribs on one side of the person's body stick out farther than the other side of the body.
Risk factors of scoliosis
Having a risk factor for a disease means that you have a higher chance of getting the disease as compared to people who are not exposed to the risk factor.
- Age: The signs of scoliosis appear at adolescence.
- Sex: Both men and women have the same rate of scoliosis development, but the risk of the curve becoming gradually worse and requiring surgery or medical attention is higher for women.
- Family History: Scoliosis could run in your family, but most children with scoliosis don't have a family member with the disease.
Treatment for scoliosis
In mild cases, no treatment is needed for scoliosis. People with a mild curve simply need to go for regular checkups to make sure the curve is not getting bigger. The condition is likely to get worse at an age when the bones are growing.
If the doctor worries that the curve may get bigger, they will recommend that you wear a back brace until your bones have grown completely. Although the brace does not fix the curvature of the spine, it can prevent it from getting worse.
There are many types of back braces. An orthopedic specialist will work with you to determine how long you need to wear the brace during the day and night.
Physical therapy is also an effective treatment for scoliosis. It can strengthen the spine and stabilize it. Depending on your condition, your doctor may also give you anti-inflammatory medications to relieve the pain and swelling.
People with scoliosis who do not experience any pain relief after physical therapy or medication may require spinal decompression surgery.
People who have severe scoliosis may also require surgery. The surgery is called spinal fusion. During this procedure, the surgeon tries to straighten your spine as much as possible. The spine is held in place with screws and rods.
To make sure the vertebrae join together, the surgeon puts in a bone graft. In this way, the curve does not get worse. The bones fully fuse in about a year. The metal rods still stay in your back and are not removed because they're not harmful.
You would have to undergo surgery to remove the metal rods.
Complications in scoliosis
Although scoliosis is mild in most people, it could have some complications.
- Breathing Problems: When the curve of the spine changes, it puts pressure on the rib cage, which further presses against your ribs. This could make it difficult to breathe for someone with scoliosis.
- Appearance: If scoliosis gets worse, it can bring notable physical changes in your body's appearance, such as uneven shoulders and hips. Some people may have prominent ribs, while in others, the waist may be shifted to one side. Often, people with scoliosis become self-conscious about how they look.
- Back Problems: People who have scoliosis in their childhood have a higher chance of getting lower back pain in their adult life. This becomes a bigger concern if the curve gets worse and is not treated in time.
If you notice any signs and symptoms of scoliosis in your child, it's best to consult a doctor right away. Quick treatment and management can help the condition from getting any worse.
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