Scoliosis

What is Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a condition of having a spine that curves sideways. The curve in the spine is usually an S or C shape.

Scoliosis refers to lateral curvature of the spine in the coronal plane, although abnormal curvature may affect spinal alignment in all dimensions.

Dextroscoliosis and levoscoliosis refer to curvature of the spine with convexity toward the right and left, respectively 

Scoliosis can affect people at any age, but it is more common among children and adolescents. The curvature of the spine is measured by angles in degrees.

What are the causes?

The cause of scoliosis is not always known. It may be caused by:

  • A birth defect.
  • A disease that can cause problems in the muscles (muscular dysfunction) or imbalance of the body, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.

What increases the risk?

You are more likely to develop scoliosis if you have a disease that causes muscle dysfunction or imbalance.

What are the symptoms?

This condition may not cause any symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may include:

  • Leaning to one side.
  • Sunken chest and uneven shoulders.
  • One side of the body being different or larger than the other side (asymmetry).
  • An abnormal curve in the back.
  • Pain, which may limit physical activity.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Bowel or bladder control problems, such as not knowing when you have to go. This can be a sign of nerve damage.

How is Scoliosis diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed based on:

  • Your medical history.
  • Your symptoms.
  • A physical exam. This may include:
    • Examining your nerves, muscles, and reflexes (neurological exam).
    • Testing the movement of your spine (range of motion study).
  • Imaging tests, such as:
    • X-rays.
    • MRI.

How is Scoliosis treated?

Treatment for this condition depends on the severity of the symptoms. Treatment may include:

  • Observation to make sure that your scoliosis does not get worse (progress). You may need to have regular visits with your health care provider.
  • A back brace to prevent scoliosis from progressing. This may be needed during times of fast growth (growth spurts), such as during adolescence.
  • Medicine to help relieve pain.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Surgery.

Follow these instructions at home:

If you have a brace:

  • Wear the brace as told by your health care provider. Remove it only as told by your health care provider.
  • Loosen the brace if your fingers or toes tingle, become numb, or turn cold and blue.
  • Keep the brace clean.
  • If the brace is not waterproof:
    • Do not let it get wet.
    • Cover it with a watertight covering when you take a bath or a shower.

General instructions

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Do not drive or use heavy machinery while taking prescription pain medicine.
  • If physical therapy was prescribed, do exercises as instructed.
  • Before starting any new sports or physical activities, ask your health care provider whether they are safe for you.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You have problems with your back brace, such as skin irritation or discomfort.
  • You have back pain that does not get better with medicine.

Get help right away if:

  • Your legs feel weak.
  • You cannot move your legs.
  • You cannot control when you urinate or pass stool (loss of bladder or bowel control).

Summary

  • Scoliosis is a condition of having a spine that curves sideways. The curve in the spine is usually an S or C shape.
  • This condition may be caused by birth defects or diseases that affect muscles and body balance.
  • Follow your health care provider’s instructions about wearing a brace, doing physical activities, and keeping follow-up visits.
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