Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves to the side, giving it in appearance of a C-shape or an S-shape when viewed from behind. This condition may develop at any point, but is most common in adolescents, who are experiencing periods of rapid growth. The condition itself is not known for causing pain, but if it remains untreated and progresses into advanced stages, pain may develop. So how is scoliosis treated?
Braces – The use of a brace is the most common form of treatment for adolescents with a spinal curvature between 25 and 40 degrees or who are showing signs of the curve increasing. Adolescents who still have likely two years or more of growth spurts ahead of them are also likely to be braced. These braces will not completely straighten the spine, but may prevent progression of curvature and in some cases may even reduce the curve. However, once the bracing is no longer utilized, the spine may revert to the curve that existed before use of braces.
Surgery – Patients with a spinal curvature between 40 and 50 degrees are often candidates for corrective surgery. The primary goal of this type of surgery is to prevent the curve from becoming more severe, but it does not straighten the spine completely. Surgery to treat scoliosis often includes a permanent joining together of select vertebrae, known as spinal fusion. These surgeries are not recommended for children that still have significant growth ahead of them, since spinal fusion prevents growth in the vertebrae that have been fused.
Sadly, a number of studies have shown that exercises and physical therapy are not likely to help prevent the progression of scoliosis. Despite these findings, it is important that scoliosis patients remain active. Exercise is an important part of a person’s overall health.
It is often the parents who first notice scoliosis in their children. The parent may notice clothes hanging abnormally on the child or the child have one shoulder or hip that appears to be higher than the other. If you suspect your child has an abnormal curve to their spine, schedule an appointment with their doctor.