Scoliosis Causes and Symptoms
Scoliosis, a spinal defect with an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine, has numerous symptoms & links to many different causes.
Diagnosing Scoliosis of the Spine?
Normally, the spine contains a forward-backward curve but when the spine curves sideways, it becomes scoliosis. For a doctor to diagnose scoliosis, the Cobb angle must be greater than 10 degrees. The Cobb Angle measures the curvature of the spine. For scoliosis, this is the angle of maximum deviation from a straight spine. The condition appears during growth spurts in children between the ages of 10 and 15. It is referred to as Pediatric Scoliosis and at this age easily corrected and maintained to prevent progression or worsening of the condition.
When scoliosis appears after puberty, doctors refer to it as Adult Scoliosis. At this stage, the bones of the spine are completely developed and the adjustments are more limited. Depending on the Cobb Angle, scoliosis can appear as mild, moderate, or severe. Mild Scoliosis appears when the Cobb angle gets between 10 and 25 degrees. In Moderate Scoliosis, the Cobb Angle appears between 25 and 40 degrees. Angles above 40 degrees become designated as Severe Scoliosis.
Doctors can stop Mild and Moderate Scoliosis from progressing in many children and most do not usually require surgery. Patients are advised to visit their spine doctors for regular checkups to monitor the curve. X-ray images are taken and used to monitor the progression of the condition.
Severe scoliosis usually presents complications ranging from malformed posture to breathing problems. This type usually requires surgery to correct.
Types of Scoliosis
The following are two reasons for the different classifications of scoliosis. Two reasons are as follows:
- Based on the Nature of the Curve
- Based on the Cause of Curvature
Because of the nature of the curve, scoliosis has different identities
This is also known as True Scoliosis. The curve becomes permanent due to a previous medical condition or injury. It appears as the most common type of scoliosis and it affects the structure of the spine and its alignment.
This develops in the womb and before birth. It occurs from the malformation of the vertebrae, due to genetic problems. The child comes into the world with spinal curvature.
This type occurs in adults and affects the lower back. It occurs due to aging and progressive degeneration of intervertebral joints in adults.
Doctors use this term when the cause of Scoliosis is unknown. This type appears as the most common type in children and adolescents. It affects the thoracic region of the spine.
This typically occurs due to neuromuscular conditions like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. It can also be referred to as Myopathic Scoliosis.
This often gets referred to as Functional Scoliosis and the curve in this type appears temporary and does not refer to the structure of the spine. Non-Structural Scoliosis can occur due to:
- Muscular Spasms
Muscle spasms caused by severe muscle strains can slowly result in functional scoliosis.
When inflammation occurs along the back or spine, it can lead to side curvature of the spine. Then, inflammation can be a direct result of an injury.
- Differences in leg heights
This puts a strain on the spine during movement due to the imbalance that a difference in leg height causes.
Causes of Scoliosis
- Cerebral palsy
- Birth defects
- Genetic conditions like Down’s syndrome
- Muscular dystrophy
- Spinal infection
- Previous surgery, maybe during birth.
Doctors know that other conditions like aging and disc degeneration usually occur with adult scoliosis. As one grows older, especially after the age of 40, the bones and muscles become weaker and might not support the body.
Conditions that contribute to adult scoliosis include:
- Trauma to the Spine
Symptoms of Scoliosis
- A Visible Curve in the Back
- Tilted Pelvis
- Uneven Positioning of the Shoulder Blades
- Uneven Length of Arms and Legs
- A Bulge to One Side
- Ribs Sticking out to One Side
Other non-visible symptoms include;
- Fatigue from Strain of Muscles
- Lower Back Pain
- Stiffness of the Back
- Pain and Numbness in the legs due to compression of nerves in the lower back.
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How to Straighten the Spine of Adults with Scoliosis
Treatment of scoliosis usually focuses first on relieving pain and improving the general well-being of the patient — rather than fixing the alignment of the curve. Treatment courses are usually determined by age, health, and the degree of the curve. These factors help the Spine Specialist choose the treatment option that will work the best for each and every patient.
Females are more susceptible to scoliosis progression than males are and doctors take this into account when treating females.
Doctors determine the severity by the extent and shape of the curve. Also, they manage Mild and Moderate Scoliosis with regular checkups and the use of braces. However, severe scoliosis usually requires surgery to correct, especially in adults.
The age of the patient determines the extent of bone maturity. Therefore, age is important for doctors to devise treatment plans that also encompass the growth of bones. For instance, braces are more effective when the bones can still grow.
Position of Curve
The position of the curve, whether at the thoracic region, center, or lower spine determines the progress of the curve. For example, curves at the center are more likely to worsen than curves at the upper or lower spine. Straightening the spine of an adult with scoliosis incorporates two methods.
Conservative Treatment for Scoliosis Causes and Symptoms
This involves the use of non-operative or nonsurgical methods to manage and monitor the curve. As such, smoking should be immediately stopped as it can speed up the degenerative process and make treatment less effective.
Conservative treatment methods include:
Children and adolescents with Mild or Moderate Scoliosis can wear braces to mainly prevent further curvature and not to reverse scoliosis. Additionally, braces are effective when the bones are still growing and the alignment of the spine can change. Therefore, patients should wear the braces at night to ensure maximum effectiveness.
Braces do not restrict a person from partaking in their everyday activities. If they wish to participate in more physical activities, they can take it off and put it back on after. When the bones stop growing, braces become ineffective.
The most common types of braces:
These fit neatly around the spinal curve and are visible under clothing.
This is a torso type of brace and It has a neck ring for resting the chin and back of the head.
In congenital scoliosis in infants, the doctor can use plaster casting as an alternative to bracing as it helps the baby’s spine grow uniformly and ensures proper alignment. Since it will be worn most of the time, it is highly effective in growing babies. Because their bones remain fragile and easily adjusted, the bracing will not normally cause a complication. Moreover, the casting will get changed as the child grows to allow for even growth.
Mild and Low-Impact exercises can strengthen the core back muscles and adjust the posture. As an example, exercises like swimming help with straightening the back and conditioning the muscles.
The patient needs to see the doctor for regular checkups to monitor any progress of the curve. To do this, the doctor will make physical observations and uses x-rays to monitor the curve. In Mild and Moderate Scoliosis, conventional pain relief medicine helps to eliminate pain.
These injections work well for pain management when conventional pain relief drugs do not work. In addition, nerve blocks and spinal injections reduce the pain felt by nerves under pressure and muscle strain.
Surgical Treatment for Scoliosis Causes and Symptoms
Finally, surgery is usually considered as a last resort in the treatment of scoliosis due to the risks associated with it. Thus, our doctors view surgery as needed for Severe Scoliosis or young people due to cosmetic reasons. Surgery is decided on when the spine specialist determines that the benefits outweigh the risks. Some of the risks associated with the surgeries include;
- Displacement of Rods
- Nerve Damage
- Spinal Infection
Spinal Fusion Surgery
This involves the use of rods, pieces of bone, or similar material between the bones in the spine. For this important procedure, doctors use hardware to hold the bones in place until they grow together, or fuse. The surgery can lessen the curve in the spine as well as keep it from getting worse.
If you or your loved one suffers from Mild Scoliosis or another complex spine condition, there is hope. We can help. Call Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute at 214-556-0555 to make an appointment today.