Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to curve in an unnatural "C" or "S" shape.It’s not clear what causes most types of scoliosis. The excess curving of the spine usually begins in childhood or adolescence and happens to girls more than boys. Scoliosis can slowly get worse into adulthood.

Symptoms

Scoliosis will affect each person differently. But the most common symptoms include a difference in shoulder height, or, the head isn't centered with the rest of the body. Sometimes it can cause a difference in the height or position of your shoulders and hips. It can change the way the arms hang from the body when you are standing up straight. And, the sides of the back look uneven when you’re bending over.

Most people will not have back pain, leg pain, or changes in bowel and bladder habits. If that happens, call your healthcare provider right away.

Even if a curve is not noticeable to others, scoliosis can affect the way a person feels about themselves – especially teenagers.

Diagnosis

To find out if you have scoliosis, your healthcare provider will look at your medical history and give you a physical exam. You will likely have X-rays of your spine.

Other imaging tests may be done to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other problems. These may include an M-R-I, which uses magnets and a computer to make images of the spine, or a C-T scan, which uses special X-rays and a computer to take a more detailed picture of your spine and the surrounding tissue.

If the spine has a sideways curve that measures 10 degrees or more on a measurement tool called the Cobb scale, you have scoliosis.In some cases, the scoliosis may not be found until the curve is large.

Treatment

There are no medications, injections, diets, or exercises that change the curve itself. Anti-inflammatory medications may reduce any pain.

A brace can help keep the curve from getting larger, but won’t make it smaller. Sometimes a curve gets worse even with a brace. Don’t stop wearing a brace on your own. Talk with your healthcare provider first.

A curve can get worse over time. Tell your healthcare provider if you notice a change in your scoliosis such as a rib that sticks out more, a change in your leg length, or pain you did not have before. A series of X-rays taken over several years is the best way to keep track of a changing curve.

Scoliosis can be treated with surgery if the curve gets larger or the pain is severe.

Things to Remember

  • Take your medications as prescribed.
  • Don’t stop wearing your brace on your own.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you notice a change in your spine, a change in leg length, or new or worse pain.

What We Have Learned

  1. A normal spine looks like an S from behind. True or false?
    The answer is False.

  2. A normal spine looks mostly straight. Scoliosis can have severe emotional effects. True or false?
    The answer is True. Adolescents especially can be affected.

  3. Scoliosis can be treated with surgery. True or false?
    The answer is True. Discuss the risks and benefits of surgery with your healthcare provider.