Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine. Some spinal curving is common and causes no problems. But others have spines that curve significantly from side to side forming the letter “S” or the letter “C.” In severe cases, it can cause debilitating pain and difficulties.
On the bright side, most cases of scoliosis are mild. And, although there is no cure it is rarely fatal. With early detection, any pain or other symptoms can usually be lessened and prevented from getting worse.
Here are a few facts about scoliosis:
· Scoliosis causes the spine to curve in an abnormal manner
· It is an idiopathic disease with no known cause
· Variations of scoliosis differ by how old a person was when the curvature began
· It most commonly occurs to children between 9 and 15 years old, to girls more than boys, and to those with a family history of the condition
Depending on the severity of the curve, the patient’s prognosis and risk for aggravation, scoliosis is treated with observation, bracing, or surgery by an orthopedic or neurosurgeon.
So, what should you look for if you suspect scoliosis?
Early Signs of Scoliosis
Scoliosis usually displays no symptoms, especially in children and teens until the spinal curve becomes obvious. Even if a spinal asymmetry appears minor, it should be checked by a doctor immediately because early treatment bears the best results.
It is usually first noticed in the home by a parent when their child’s clothing becomes ill-fitting and unevenly hangs off the trunk of the body. Undressed, the child’s spine may look crooked, or his or her ribs may prominently stick out.
Less obvious early signs of scoliosis include misalignment in many part of the body: eyes, shoulders, ribs, or hips that are not level with each other; when the head is not centered over the body; when the body tilts to one side, or one leg appears shorter than the other.
In some cases, children may develop spinal deformities that worsen with age.
Symptoms of Moderate or Severe Scoliosis
In only about 10 percent of cases of idiopathic scoliosis do symptoms progress beyond the mild stage and require treatment. In these instances, the curvature becomes more pronounced and the symptoms more noticeable, such as:
· Changes in gait. Misaligned hips change how a person walks. The body compensates to maintain balance and places extra stress on legs muscles. One hand may brush against a hip while the other does not.
· Decreased range of motion. Spinal twisting can increase rigidity and reduce flexibility.
· Difficulty breathing. With the spine’s rotation, the rib cage can twist and constrict the lungs, and make breathing difficult.
· Cardiovascular problems. If the rib cage twists, reduced space can hamper the heart’s ability to pump blood.
· Pain. Severe curvature of the spine makes back muscles more prone to painful spasms and inflammation.
· Degeneration. Intervertebral discs and facet joints degenerate due to higher stressors.
· Lower self-esteem. This is a commonly overlooked or minimized symptom especially among adolescents.
When to See Your Doctor
Mild curves in the spine can develop stealthily without a parent or child noticing. The spinal curves appear gradually and usually don’t cause pain. Occasionally, symptoms may be noticed by teachers, friends, or teammates.
Go to the doctor at the very first sign of scoliosis because early medical intervention makes for the best prognosis.
If you have questions about a curving of the spine, or about scoliosis and its treatment, contact the spinal specialists at the Spine Academy of Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland at (410) 644-1880, or use our convenient online form to request an appointment.