What Is Scoliosis?

Daily Health Solutions
on August 13, 2011
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Scoliosis, often called curvature of the spine, is a condition that is characterized by an abnormal “S” curve in the spine. This can occur at any age and for a variety of reasons. The impact of scoliosis can range anywhere from minor back fatigue from standing for long periods of time to an inability to move normally. In most cases, scoliosis will cause some back pain, and — depending on the severity of the curve — it may leave the back more vulnerable to injury.

Diagnosis. The most definitive symptom of scoliosis is visible changes in stance or movement. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “A doctor may suspect scoliosis if one shoulder appears to be higher than the other, or the pelvis appears to be tilted.” In some cases, a visual inspection of the spine will reveal a curve going off to the side. Other signs include low back pain, abnormal levels of back fatigue and possibly a persistent backache.

Causes. Most cases of scoliosis that appear in children are congenital, due to malformations early in development. While these cases may worsen over time, it’s generally clear enough for accurate diagnosis in childhood. However, scoliosis that is related to disorders such as spina bifida and cerebral palsy may appear at any point in life. In addition, a portion of scoliosis cases have no discernible cause.

Treatment. Depending on the severity of the disease, as well as what initially caused it, the condition can sometimes be treated with custom-fitted back braces that slowly ease the spine straight. While these can theoretically be used on patients of any age, braces seem to have a higher success rate in children due to continued development and growth of the spine. For older patients whose bones have stopped growing, surgery may be an option. In most cases, surgery combined with a brace is recommended for older patients. With the right treatment, scoliosis has a decent likelihood of being fully or partially reversed.