June is Scoliosis Awareness Month. It’s likely you’ve heard the word “scoliosis” to describe someone’s posture or diagnosed condition. But do you really know what that means?? Do you have a scoliosis? Is your child developing a scoliosis? Here are some basics to help you understand the condition better and when to seek care.
What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine. The lateral curvature can happen in different areas of the spine, including more than one area. Small curvatures may go unnoticed if they barely impact the movement patterns of the spine. Larger curvatures, however, can result in more noticeable, and sometimes painful, changes.
What are symptoms of Scoliosis?
Symptoms of scoliosis are often dependent on the severity of the curve (see below). Here is a list of potential symptoms:
- One shoulder blade higher than the other
- A shoulder blade that sticks out more than the other
- The appearance that the head is not centered with the rest of the body
- The appearance that one shoulder is higher than the other
- Uneven hips or one hip sticking out more than the other
- A rotated spine
- Pushed out ribs
- Difficulty breathing due to a reduced available area for lung expansion
- Back pain and discomfort
- Arms not hanging down straight next to the body
- When bending forward, the appearance that the two sides of the back are different heights
How is Scoliosis diagnosed?
Scoliosis is most often diagnosed in early childhood. However, it is possible that a scoliosis develops later in life. There is a test named “Adam’s forward bend test” that is performed by a nurse or doctor as a screening tool. A scoliosis diagnosis is confirmed by x-ray. If there is a curvature of 10° or larger, it can be labeled as scoliosis. The severity of the condition is based on the curvature measurement.
- A mild curve is less than 20 degrees.
- A moderate curve is between 25 degrees and 40 degrees.
- A severe curve is more than 50 degrees.
What causes Scoliosis?
There are various reasons for a scoliosis to develop, most often affecting children. Two to three percent of the US population is impacted. The different types of scoliosis can help determine treatment needs.
Idiopathic Scoliosis- The cause of the most common form of scoliosis, idiopathic scoliosis, is unknown. The majority of diagnoses occurs between the age of 10 and adulthood. Chiropractic care is a very effective form of treatment for both pain management and preventing progression of the curvature. Restoring proper vertebral movement (chiropractic adjustment), improving posture and back muscle strength (stretches/exercises), and maintaining proper nutritional health can all have very positive impacts on the symptoms associated with scoliosis.
Congenital Scoliosis- Congenital scoliosis means the patient was born with the condition. This most often happens when the baby is developing in utero. A vertebrae in the spine may be misshaped, missing, or even fused to another bone. Congenital scoliosis can have more severe curvatures resulting in rib pain and breathing difficulties. Other health problems may be associated as well, including heart and kidney concerns. Chiropractic care can be very effective to help manage the symptoms associated with congenital scoliosis.
Neuromuscular Scoliosis- Neuromuscular scoliosis is caused by any medical condition that affects the muscles and nerves. Muscle weakness and imbalances are often the cause. Cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and muscular dystrophy are examples of medical conditions tassociated. Chiropractic care can assist in the management of symptoms associated with neuromuscular conditions in conjunction with other physicians.
What are additional treatment options?
It is important to seek proper treatment advice when scoliosis is diagnosed. At-home care consists of regular stretching and exercising, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep. Chiropractic care and massage therapy reduce muscle tension and improve spinal movement. Maintaining proper mechanics is extremely helpful in preventing additional pain and irritation to the spine.
If early detection finds a moderate to severe scoliosis, a back brace may be recommended to prevent further progression of the curve. And some curvatures are severe enough that surgical intervention is necessary. It is important to discuss any concerns with your primary care physician and doctor of chiropractic. Early detection and treatment is key to preventing long-term complications.