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Scoliosis

The spine naturally has curves, which help to shape our shoulders and lower back. In some cases, the spine curves more dramatically or at an irregular angle, which can cause discomfort or damage over time. If the spine bends more side to side than outward and inward, this is a condition called scoliosis. On an X-ray, a patient with scoliosis will show a spine with more of an “S” or “C” shape than the straight line of a healthy back. Scoliosis can also affect the waist and hips, which may appear out of alignment if the vertebrae are twisted.

It’s important to note, scoliosis is not the result of bad posture or an injury, and standing straighter cannot treat this issue. Our board certified orthopaedic surgeons are extensively trained in scoliosis diagnosis and spine pain and management, and they can help you if you believe you or your child may have this condition.

For more information about scoliosis, or if you would like to schedule a consultation with one of our spinal surgeons, please contact our office today.

Who gets scoliosis?

Scoliosis is fairly uncommon, affecting around two percent of the population. However, there is a genetic component. You are 20 percent more likely to have this condition if a family member is diagnosed with it. If someone related to you has scoliosis, we recommend scheduling an examination for yourself.

Children

The cause of most cases of scoliosis is “idiopathic,” or unknown. Generally, this condition begins to develop before puberty in middle to late childhood. While scoliosis is more common in girls, boys can also be affected. Scoliosis most commonly occurs in otherwise healthy individuals; however, children with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or other conditions can also have this disorder.

Tips for Parents

Scoliosis is not preventable, but detection and treatment during a child’s growing years is the best way to prevent an existing problem from getting worse.

Idiopathic scoliosis can go unnoticed in a child because it is rarely painful in the formative years. Therefore, parents should watch for the following “tip-offs” of scoliosis development when their child is about 8 years of age:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • Prominent shoulder blade or shoulder blades
  • Uneven waist
  • Elevated hips
  • Leaning to one side

Any one of these signs warrants examination by the family physician, pediatrician, or orthopaedist.

Some schools sponsor scoliosis screenings. Although only a physician can accurately diagnose scoliosis, school screenings can help alert parents to the presence of its warning signs in their child.

Adults

Although less common, scoliosis can also develop in adulthood. In many cases, adult scoliosis is the result of an undiagnosed condition that has progressed, untreated, since childhood. While the spinal curvature may have been mild or moderate at first, the bend can become more pronounced without adequate care.

Another factor that can lead to adult onset scoliosis is the degeneration of the spinal discs. Between each vertebra are cushions filled with a jelly-like substance that can become firmer and even protrude out through a rupture. This is called a herniated or slipped disc. This can occur at any level of the spine, leading to changes in the back’s shape and function. Kyphosis, also known as round back, is another type of spinal deformity that can develop in adults. This condition typically is associated with osteoporosis (loss of bone density) and the elderly.

Scoliosis in adults can be the cause of considerable pain and debilitation if not treated. In time, this condition can even make breathing difficult. If you are concerned you may have scoliosis, we encourage you to schedule a consultation promptly.

Treatment

The first step of treatment will be evaluation and diagnosis. When you arrive for your initial consultation, our experienced orthopaedic surgeon will discuss your or your child’s medical history and that of the family, ask when the you first noticed the concern, and examine the angle and severity of the curve.

Surgical intervention is rarely needed. In most cases, monitoring the child’s spinal curvature for signs of progression may be all that’s necessary. If the curve becomes more severe, an orthopaedic brace may be recommended to prevent the condition from worsening. Even with the brace, your child should be able to participate in a broad array of recreational and social activities without issue.

Other treatment options typically prove ineffective in treating scoliosis. If another physician recommends electrical stimulation, exercise or physical therapy regimens, or manual manipulation, you should know these approaches are unlikely to help.

In cases of severe curvature or where an orthopaedic brace cannot control the curve’s progression, surgery may be necessary. Advances have made this procedure highly effective, and our board certified surgeons will discuss the details of your treatment with you during your appointment.

Summary

Most patients with scoliosis will only require observation with regular examinations during their growing years. The most important factor is early diagnosis, as this allows the orthopaedist to watch for and limit curve progression. Although medical intervention is rarely necessary, the innovations in technique and treatment have made this condition very manageable. Our board certified orthopaedic surgeons are extensively trained in all matters affecting the musculoskeletal system, and they can provide exceptional care for individuals with scoliosis.

For more information about scoliosis and its treatment, or if you would like to schedule a consultation with one of our surgeons, please contact our office today.