The Facts About Scoliosis
Scoliosis is an abnormality that occurs when the spine becomes curved sideways and rotated. Typically, Scoliosis has no known cause. When there is no known cause, the case is referred to as “Idiopathic Scoliosis”.
While Idiopathic Scoliosis does not have a direct known cause, it tends to run in families. Scientists have not yet identified all of the genes that lead to it being hereditary, and it is very likely that multiple other factors play a part in the occurrence of it as well—for example, posture, diet, and exercise habits.
Roughly 3% of the population suffers from Idiopathic Scoliosis.
Cases of Idiopathic Scoliosis are broken down into three age group, those being:
Infantile: birth to three-years-old
Juvenile: four to nine-years-old
dolescent: ten to eighteen-years-old
Why does Idiopathic Scoliosis only occur in youth?
By about eighteen-years-old, the bones have finally finished forming. It is during the younger, formative years that problems like Scoliosis and other physical defects can occur. Once bones have (for the most part) finished growing and have become fused, Idiopathic Scoliosis will not develop.
How much of a curve does there have to be to classify as Scoliosis?
For a patient to have Scoliosis, their spine must be curved sideways (or laterally) by at least 10 degrees. These measurements would be taken via X-rays of the spine.
The Signs of Idiopathic Scoliosis
The earliest stages of Idiopathic Scoliosis rarely show any signs. Therefore, even if one person’s spine is curved 10 degrees and they have Idiopathic Scoliosis, without frequent checkups, they will likely not notice it until the condition gets much worse.
Once the spinal curve reaches 20 degrees or more, that is when most people tend to take notice. Either a friend, parent or the person themselves may notice that their clothing is hanging unevenly or that they tilt to one side when standing.
Is it painful?
Idiopathic Scoliosis itself is not thought to cause pain, especially in youth and young adults. However, it can lead to other issues that can increase the likelihood of muscle spasms and similar problems that, in turn, can result in pain.
Idiopathic Scoliosis can be treated a few different ways. The treatment options available to a person will vary depending on their age (how much more growth they will be doing) and the severity of the curve.
In most cases, a doctor will choose to observe Idiopathic Scoliosis for 4-6 months if it has not yet reached a curve of 25 degrees. This will allow them to take frequent measurements and determine if the Idiopathic Scoliosis is continuing to worsen.
For treatment, doctors will suggest one of these two solutions:
- Bracing: If Idiopathic Scoliosis has reached 25 degrees or more, a back brace may be given until the patient has reached full skeletal maturity. This will prevent the curve from worsening and avoid surgery.
- Surgery: If the curve continues to worsen despite the brace, surgery will be a consideration. Today, surgeons are able to offer posterior spinal fusion, which allows for more back mobility in the long run.