Here at Colorado Back and Spine in Littleton, we have many people ask us what is scoliosis? It is basically a curvature of the spine. But, let us explain more completely. A normal spine is in a straight vertical line. With scoliosis, there is a curvature, toward the side, of the spine. There can be many different types of scoliosis.
- Congenital scoliosis is caused by an abnormality of the bone, which is there at birth.
- Neuromuscular scoliosis is a result of abnormal nerves or muscles. Examples are spina bifida or cerebral palsy and results in paralysis.
- With degenerative scoliosis, it results from a traumatic bone collapse from an injury or illness, a previous major back surgery, or osteoporosis which is a thinning of the bones.
- The most common type is idiopathic scoliosis and the cause is unknown, but many theories point to genetics. Idiopathic scoliosis can progress during a child’s growth years but usually, will not progress during adulthood.
According to WebMD, about 2% to 3% of Americans develop scoliosis by age 16. Less than 0.1% have spinal curves measuring greater than 40 degrees, which is when surgery is most likely to be recommended. Girls are more likely to have scoliosis than boys.
If a child has uneven shoulders, a prominent shoulder blade, an uneven waist, or leans to one side, you should have them checked by your doctor for scoliosis. The diagnosis will be made after a bone exam and an X-ray to evaluate the magnitude of the curve. Most scoliosis curves are found on school screening exams, by the child’s doctor at a checkup, or by their parents. The doctor will usually follow up every four months to six months with a physical exam and a low-radiation X-ray of the patient.
Braces are often used as a treatment choice for adolescents who have a spinal curve between 25 degrees to 40 degrees, especially if they have at least 2 years of growth remaining. The goal of the brace is to stop the progression of the curve. It will usually make the correction, but if you take the brace off, the curve will return.
Surgery is often recommended for people who have curves beyond 40 degrees to 50 degrees. The goal of the surgery is to stop the curve from getting worse, but it doesn’t completely straighten the spine. Surgery involves using metallic implants to correct the curvature and hold it in place until a bone graft creates a rigid fusion in the curve.
Because surgery typically requires spinal fusion, or joining the vertebrae together permanently, the spine will stop growing at the point of fusion. For younger children, this is simply not the right option and another technique will be used. However, a brace will be required even after surgery.
Here at Colorado Back and Spine in Littleton, our doctor is an expert in explaining what is scoliosis, as well as diagnosing and treating it. For more information or to make an appointment with Dr. Anant Kumar, please contact us today.