While the word “scoliosis” may sound a bit scary, the truth is that the medical condition is relatively common and typically not debilitating. In fact, between two and three percent of the people in the United States are affected by scoliosis (over six million individuals).
Whether you are personally affected by scoliosis, know someone who is, or are simply curious, you have come to the right place. We have put together a quick guide to what scoliosis is, the symptoms of the condition, how it is treated, and more. Read on for your deep dive into all things scoliosis.
Defined as an abnormal curvature of the spine, scoliosis can develop at different stages in life depending on the person affected. Generally, the onset of scoliosis occurs between the ages of 10 and 15, with the condition affecting both genders equally. However, it is not unusual for scoliosis to develop in infancy or early childhood.
While the condition does occur equally in both females and males, females are far more likely to develop a curve magnitude severe enough to demand treatment. Females are approximately eight times more likely to reach this level of severity.
As a result, around 30,000 children are fitted with a treatment brace each year, and spinal fusion surgery is done on around 38,000 patients.
Scoliosis, while common, is still a bit mysterious. The most prevalent type of scoliosis, for example, seems to be familial and result from hereditary factors.
Other forms of scoliosis, however, do have causes that are easier to pinpoint. Neuromuscular conditions can result in scoliosis, as can birth defects, spinal injuries, and spinal cord anomalies.
While scoliosis can manifest differently in different people, there are a few signs and symptoms that are more common than others. A doctor’s evaluation and diagnosis is the best way to determine the presence of the condition, but there are warning signs that can alert you to the possible presence of scoliosis.
- Head is off-center from rest of body
- Difference in hip and/or shoulder heights
- Asymmetric ribs visible from front or back
- Arms hanging differently when standing straight
The symptoms above are only a handful of the many ways scoliosis can be spotted. They also have some overlap with other spinal conditions, so you should consult your doctor for a thorough examination if you notice these or other signs.
The first step to treating scoliosis is often observation and frequent examination to determine if and when intervention is required. This method is most often used in cases where the patient is still growing and has a spinal curve of less than 20 degrees.
If the curve is greater than 20 degrees and less than 50 degrees in a growing child, a doctor will typically recommend bracing. These external torso braces are designed to apply precise corrective pressure, preventing the curvature from worsening during growth.
Surgery is reserved for severe cases, typically when a child has scoliosis with a curve of more than 50 degrees. This route is designed to prevent the curve from worsening and reduce deformity.
If you would like to learn more about scoliosis, including how it is diagnosed, we encourage you to contact your doctor. With the knowledge and training to identify and treat scoliosis, they can provide you with valuable information and insights, personalized evaluations, and more.