Scoliosis: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

What Is Scoliosis?

The simplest way to put it is that Scoliosis is a condition where your spine gradually develops an abnormal side-to-side curvature or rotation, typically in early childhood before the onset of puberty. So, instead of a nice straight line the spine curves to look like an S or a C. As it progresses, the impact can get more and more severe. But, in most cases, people don’t require invasive surgeries, especially when they consistently get checked by a chiropractic doctor.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Scoliosis?

Here’s the good news, the vast majority of individuals with the condition feel no pain as the curvature develops. Most kids have no clue it’s even happening! However, body changes begin to appear – uneven shoulders and hips, a shoulder blade begins to stick out and become far more prominent, and in more severe cases the ribcage also starts looking uneven. Pain only becomes an issue after serious progression, and worst-case scenarios impact the lungs.

What Causes Scoliosis?

So, how do you get scoliosis? Frankly, in most cases, the specific cause of the condition still isn’t known, so it’s referred to as idiopathic scoliosis. And yes, this does tend to run in families so genetics plays a role, we just don’t fully understand it yet. Then there are certain neuromuscular conditions that can cause scoliosis, as well as spinal injuries and birth defects.

Where Do You Feel Scoliosis Pain?

For those wondering how to tell if you have scoliosis, you can self-assess with a couple mirrors, have someone you know and trust take a close look at your spine, or have a chiropractic doctor diagnose the condition. But chances are, you’re an adult reading this, so you would know by now. For kids, it’s often parents who see the signs or a general practitioner who may first discover the changes.

What Are the Types of Scoliosis?

There are three types of idiopathic scoliosis, categorized by age which often indicates the progression of the spinal deformity. Specifics are nailed down through methods like a scoliosis degree of curvature chart. The types, in brief, are as follows:

  • Infantile Scoliosis: Birth to 3 years of age.
  • Juvenile Scoliosis: From 4 to 9 years old.
  • Adolescent Scoliosis: From 10 to 18.

What Are the Different Types of Scoliosis Spinal Curve?

Imagine a backward letter C, and that’s the typical curvature (sideways to the right) we see with scoliosis. This is called dextroscoliosis. When the curve is on the left side of the body, the spine looks like a conventional letter C. Otherwise here are the common scoliosis spinal curves:

  • Right Thoracic: Bends the upper-right region of the back.
  • Right Thoracolumbar: Curve starts on the right of the upper back, to lower lumbar.
  • Right Lumbar: Starts and ends the curve in the lower back.
  • Double Major: In other words, a double curve, looks more balanced.

How to Diagnose Scoliosis?

Other than simply noting your shirts don’t hang right on your body? It’s often not difficult to diagnose for parents, family doctors, massage therapists, and chiropractic professionals. Our brains are trained to see non-symmetrical components, so a curved spine tends to stick out. However, overcoming the condition will require professional care. Stop by any Better Health Chiropractic clinic, whether your special someone is a teenager or an infant, and through physical examination or simple imaging scans or x-ray we can quickly diagnose the condition and build a long-term treatment program.

What Are the Treatment Options for Scoliosis?

In the Anchorage, Wasilla, and Juneau areas of Alaska, local families bring their loved ones into Better Health Chiropractic clinics to see a scoliosis chiropractor and seek physical therapy for scoliosis in the same building! When symptoms are more progressed, there are other non-invasive options like casting and braces, or spinal fusion surgery to reduce the curvature and stop it from getting worse.

What Degree of Scoliosis Requires Treatment?

First and foremost, pain. If there’s pain, that’s a sign something is wrong and it should be swiftly addressed if the pain doesn’t subside relatively quickly. Otherwise, have your child checked by a chiropractic doctor when you first see any curve in their spine, or their posture seems unsymmetric, their clothes don’t look right on their body, etc. Early detection is extremely helpful! Additional facts about scoliosis are available here.

Scoliosis treatment options for patients in Alaska

Scoliosis is an abnormal curve in the spine sideways when viewed from the front or back.  The body has normal curves when viewed from the side all people have these curves to stand upright and bear gravity.  When viewed from the front the spine should be straight and void of any curves.  Scoliosis is two times more likely in girls than boys.  Scoliosis also seems to be genetically linked, but not the severity of the curve.  Most scoliosis is idiopathic in nature which means that the cause of it is unknown.

Scoliosis is divided into four different categories by age: infantile (ages 3 and under), juvenile (ages 3-9), adolescence (ages 10-18 and the most common), and adult after skeletal maturity.  Scoliosis can then be further divided into functional, neuromuscular, and degenerative.  Functional means that the spine is normal, but there is a problem elsewhere in the body that causes the curve.

Some of the most common problems are uneven hips or even different leg lengths.  Neuromuscular usually means that there is a problem in the development of the bone.  The bone may not form or fuse correctly.  They can be misshaped instead of forming as a square they may form as a triangle or an odd shape.  This type of scoliosis can also be considered congenital or have diseases associated with it that can affect the growth of the bone.   This type of scoliosis is the most severe and may need radical procedures to correct or stabilize.  Degenerative is usually found in the elderly population.  This scoliosis is usually due to arthritis which causes changes in the shape of the vertebrae that will form a curve.  There are also many other factors or diseases that can cause scoliosis to occur, such as tumors which can erode away bone to form a curve.

Some of the common symptoms of scoliosis are clothes do not feel as though they fit, one pant legs seems to be longer or wear as the other side does not, one hip or shoulder appears to be higher, or the head may seem to lean to one side.  When the curve is more severe there may be a shortness of breath, chest pain, and there may be back pain.  Scoliosis is usually diagnosed when there is a routine childhood screening where the child bends over at the waist and the back is examined for any curves.  As an adult, an exam usually will identify scoliosis. X-rays also can be used to assess the curve and also to measure the angle of the curve.  X-rays are also used to track the progression of the curve.

Treatment for scoliosis can be very difficult especially when the cause may not be known.  The most common procedure is observation where the curve is monitored to see if the curve will worsen.  Chiropractic and Rehabilitative Therapy has success in treating scoliosis, especially neuromuscular scoliosis.  Chiropractic is used to help restore normal movement to the spine and help reposition vertebrae in alignment with the rest of the spine.  Rehabilitative Therapy is used to increase flexibility in the spine especially the compressed side.  Muscle strengthening is performed to help stabilize the spine.  Electrical stimulation is also used to help to reduce muscle spasms and to strengthen atrophied (weakened and decreased density) muscles.  Bracing is used to help try to prevent the curve to continue, by wearing a brace around the torso.

Surgery is performed either to fuse two vertebrae or even rods are surgically attached to the spine to straighten it and prevent the curve to reappear.  Usually, if the curve is less then 40 degrees no surgical intervention is needed unless it is congenital.  Once a child reaches maturity the curve will stabilize itself.  A regular exercise and stretching program (as yoga) is helpful to try to stabilize the curve.

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