Scoliosis is a medical condition that causes an abnormally curved spine or backbone. A healthy spine has a normal curve when looking at it from the side, and appears straight when looking at it from the front. People with scoliosis end up developing extra curves on either side of their body, which could cause their spinal bones to twist. As a result, these deformities could form a C or an S-shaped spinal curve.
Children, adolescents, and adults are all at risk for scoliosis. In fact, the U.S. National Scoliosis Foundation has reported over seven million cases of the condition. But what exactly causes scoliosis and how can you manage it? Read on to know more about the condition’s types, causes, symptoms, and treatment solutions.
What are the Risk Factors for Scoliosis?
A patient’s age, gender, and genetics are the main risk factors for scoliosis. Scoliosis symptoms start developing in 9 to 15-year-olds, making age a risk factor. Moreover, females have a higher risk of developing scoliosis since they are more likely to develop spinal curvature than males. Genetics can also play a part — patients with a family history of scoliosis, for instance, are more likely to have the condition.
It’s important to note that these factors may vary among patients. Scoliosis can be mild, moderate, or severe, and these different types can help determine more specific risk factors. For example, adolescents have a high risk or experiencing rapid progression of scoliosis because of their growth.
Severe scoliosis has its own set of risks, as well. These factors include the following:
- Weak lungs
- Limited mobility and impaired muscles
- Less motor and sensory control
- Balancing issues
- Emotional stress
- Digestive problems
What are the Signs & Symptoms of Scoliosis?
We’ve already mentioned that scoliosis comes with various risk factors and symptoms. But how can you tell if you have scoliosis? Here are several signs and symptoms to watch out for:
- An abnormal curve of the spine
- Back pain
- Uneven shoulders and/or hips
- A bump in the lower back
- Numb, weak, or painful legs
- Leg pain
- Trouble walking and standing up straight
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of height
- Bone spurs
- Bloatedness after meals
Certain types of scoliosis, in particular, can result in any of the following symptoms:
- Rib pain
- Neck pain
- Muscle spasms
- Abdominal pain
A doctor may identify other root causes of the symptoms during diagnosis.
What are the Different Types of Scoliosis?
Scoliosis can be structural or non-structural depending on its severity. Structural scoliosis is the most common category, which is characterized by spinal rotation and a side-to-side curvature of the spine. Meanwhile, non-structural scoliosis only results in a curved spine, and doesn’t change a person’s spinal structure.
There are seven different types of scoliosis, which may be classified as either structural or non-structural. These conditions include the following:
Congenital scoliosis is a rare form of scoliosis that emerges at birth. This condition occurs in 1 out of 10,000 babies. However, congenital scoliosis can go undetected until a patient reaches adolescence.
Spinal abnormalities are the main cause of this condition, and these deformities can develop during pregnancy. But a deformed spine doesn’t always cause congenital scoliosis. Some cases can stem from an incomplete or a partial bone structure. Missing bones may lead to the condition, as well.
Early-onset scoliosis refers to scoliosis that can occur from birth up to the age of eight. It covers infantile and juvenile scoliosis. Like idiopathic scoliosis, doctors still haven’t identified the causes behind early-onset scoliosis. But deformed chest walls, neuromuscular conditions, and other health problems may accompany this type of scoliosis.
Early-onset scoliosis can cause the following symptoms:
- Tilted, uneven shoulders
- Prominent ribs on one side
- An uneven waistline
- Hips with a difference height or position
- A back that tends to lean sideways
Known as the most common spinal deformity treated by orthopedic surgeons, idiopathic scoliosis affects around 80% of patients with scoliosis. This type of scoliosis mostly develops in adolescents, but it can also affect babies and children. However, explicit signs of the condition may be difficult to spot among young patients. This can, in turn, lead to adult idiopathic scoliosis, a condition that targets the spine’s thoracic and lumbar sections.
As of today, idiopathic scoliosis still has no known cause. Genetics might be a possible cause for the condition, but experts are still trying to identify more probable causes. Young patients with idiopathic scoliosis may experience the same symptoms as early-onset scoliosis, including uneven shoulders and waistlines. Meanwhile, the symptoms for adult idiopathic scoliosis can include lower back pain and fatigue.
Degenerative scoliosis is another common form of scoliosis in adults. The condition can develop when spondylosis, a particular type of arthritis, alters the spine. When a patient is diagnosed with degenerative scoliosis, the aging of spinal discs and joints take place asymmetrically. This results in the tilting and slipping between the vertebrae.
People with degenerative scoliosis have a slightly C-shaped curvature in their lower back. Additionally, patients can experience different types of pain, from dull aches in their back to sharp leg pains, which can occur slowly and intensify in the morning. Other symptoms of degenerative scoliosis include asymmetrical shoulders or hips and a shorter height.
Neurological and muscular disorders can result in neuromuscular scoliosis, resulting in a misaligned spine and trunk. Patients in a state of traumatic paralysis are most likely to experience this type of scoliosis. But neuromuscular scoliosis can occur in people with birth defects, muscular dystrophy, and other medical conditions, as well. The condition can be congenital if the curve is present at birth.
Neuromuscular scoliosis forms a long, C-shaped curve in the spine and weakens a patient’s muscles. It can also make balancing, sitting, and walking rather difficult. Moreover, the shoulders, rib cage, and hips might appear uneven, as well. And unlike other forms of scoliosis, neuromuscular scoliosis doesn’t cause pain.
For this type of scoliosis, patients may have a wedge-shaped vertebrae that results in a frontal curvature of the thoracic spine. The formation of this curve is the slow growth of the front part of the spine. As a result, a patient’s kyphosis moves forward and causes a person to stoop forward with a bent-over posture. Scheuermann’s kyphosis can’t be traced to a specific cause, but disrupted bone growth might play a part in its progression.
Scheuermann’s kyphosis usually appears when a teenager reaches puberty. It can cause poor posture and slouching in adolescents, plus occasional fatigue and mild thoracic pain. Moreover, the following symptoms might develop in patients with serious cases of Scheuermann’s kyphosis:
- A stiff spinal curve
- Chest pain or breathing difficulties
Keep in mind that bending forward worsens the spinal curvature produced by Scheuermann’s kyphosis, and standing straight can help correct one’s posture. In some rare cases, a patient may experience chest pain and breathing difficulties.
Syndromic scoliosis is a type of scoliosis that could develop secondary to another medical syndrome, which could include:
- Rett’s syndrome
- Beale’s syndrome
- Muscular dystrophy
- Connective tissue disorders
Syndromic scoliosis is linked to a wide range of symptoms. Patients diagnosed with this type of scoliosis may experience pain-free symptoms, but others may feel discomfort when sitting down.
How Can You Treat Scoliosis?
Researchers are yet to find a specific cure for scoliosis, but managing the condition can prevent it from getting worse. Scoliosis treatment isn’t necessary for mild cases, but it could help patients manage more severe cases. With that said, you can get medical care for scoliosis if you’re experiencing back pain.
You can manage scoliosis through any of the following methods:
Exercising is another great way to manage your condition. Reduce pain by performing exercises that can contribute to a stronger, more flexible back. Plus, staying active can help you maintain a healthy weight to put less pressure on your back. Just make sure your workout regimen will keep your back moving.
Sometimes, people with scoliosis might feel pain, numbness, or tingling anywhere between their lower back and their feet. These symptoms are a result of your spinal nerves being subjected to pressure or irritation. Steroid and local anesthetic injections for your back can help you relieve these sensations. These treatments, however, will only provide temporary relief, since its effects could wear off after several weeks or months.
Adult patients seldom use back braces to manage scoliosis. But they’re still a good option because they support your spine and can help relieve your pain. Furthermore, you can wear a brace instead of undergoing surgery.
Some patients use physical therapy to manage mild scoliosis. A physical therapist can help develop a treatment plan based on the nature of your condition. This plan might cover the following therapy methods:
- Range of motion exercises. These exercises will help you tackle limited mobility caused by scoliosis.
- Manual therapy. Physical therapists use manual therapy to address affected joints, muscles, and soft tissues so they can work properly again.
- Strength training. This treatment involves restoring your core strength and muscle functionality. Your physical therapist may also suggest strength training exercises for your hips, shoulders, head, and feet, as well.
Lumbar decompression surgery isn’t always advised to patients with scoliosis. However, it can help patients address these issues:
- Severe spinal curvature
- Persistent back pain
- Irritated or compressed spinal nerves
This type of spinal surgery also comes with risks, including blood clots and, in some less frequent cases, damaged spinal nerves. Additionally, full recovery from lumbar decompression surgery can take around a year or more.
Make LifeClinic Your Partner for Scoliosis Treatment
Scoliosis can affect your health and daily life. But with a reliable partner for recovery, you can improve your quality of life and get moving again. LifeClinic’s chiropractic, physical therapy, and rehabilitation services will help you restore your body’s function and ensure you stay healthy as you heal. Start your recovery and visit a LifeClinic location near you today.