Symptoms: Scoliosis develops in the mid back (thoracic spine), lower back (lumbar spine) or, most often, in both the mid and lower back resulting in an S-shaped bend to the spine. Mild cases of scoliosis are usually painless, but scoliosis can cause fatigue from long periods of sitting or standing, and may be accompanied by muscle spasm and other biomechanical problems.
Overview: A normal, healthy spine, viewed from the back, follows a straight, vertical line. (Almost every spine curves a bit, but when the curve exceeds 10 degrees scoliosis may be the cause.)
Scoliosis (from the Greek word skol, meaning twists and turns) causes the spine to form a “C” or “S” shaped curve. A bent or twisted scoliotic spine can cause humps on either side of the back. A raised shoulder or shoulder blade, clothes that hang unevenly, or listing to one side or the other are early precursors to scoliosis.
Scoliosis usually starts in childhood, just before and during adolescence. It affects three to five children out of every 1000. Mild curvature is equally divided between girls and boys, but severe scoliosis is ten times more likely to occur in females.
Scoliosis comes in two forms — functional and structural. Their initial symptoms are similar, but functional (non-structural) scoliosis, is usually limited to side-to-side curvature of the spine. Structural scoliosis, the more serious form of scoliosis, involves both side-to-side curvature as well as a twisted or rotational curvature in the spine.
Common causes of functional scoliosis include uneven leg lengths, postural problems, muscular imbalances and direct trauma to the spine. Less frequent, and more serious, causes of functional scoliosis can include small tumors or growths in the spinal column. Dr. Suzan Starler, D.C. can determine the causes of your functional scoliosis and provide the appropriate treatment.
The causes of structural scoliosis are less known. In fact, in 65% of structural scoliosis, the cause remains unknown. Structural scoliosis occurs as a result of unequal growth of the two sides of the vertebrae (spinal bones) which brings about the side-to-side curve and the twist or rotation in the spine. Unfortunately, the condition is irreversible.
The earlier scoliosis, both functional and structural, is detected, the better. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends that girls be screened twice for scoliosis, between the ages of 10 and 12, and that boys be screened once at age 13 or 14. While the onset of scoliosis is predominately found during childhood, it rare cases it can begin in adulthood.
If you suspect that you or your child has scoliosis, the worst thing you can do is ignore the signs, as the longer you wait, the more severe the condition gets. When you visit your healthcare practitioner, they will look at three factors to gauge the severity of your scoliosis.
Factor one is the degree of the curve in your spine: the more curved the spine, the greater the risk of further progression.
Factor two is your age and skeletal maturity: Children are more susceptible to deformity as the bones in their spine are less mature and stable.
Factor three is your sex: females face a significantly higher risk of developing severe scoliosis than males.
After an examination of you and your medical history, Dr. Suzan will be able to determine the severity of your scoliosis. Depending on the results, she may refer you to a medical doctor for a consultation as medical bracing may be necessary to provide you with the best results. Whether or not bracing is necessary, Dr. Starler strongly feels that early implementation of an exercise regimen, proper nutrition, and neurologic rehabilitation is mandatory for the optimal management of scoliosis, especially for children. She cautions that treatment protocols for scoliosis are not for the short term; it takes a great deal of commitment on the part of the patient and/or parents to attain the best results. However, if you are willing to make the journey, significant improvement will be your reward.