Ask Family Doctors: Scoliosis

Ask Family Doctors: Scoliosis

Ask Family Doctors: Scoliosis

The spine is one of the most important structures in the body. It supports the entire human frame, gives us the mobility and range that we use to do everything from sitting to playing extreme sports, and protects the spinal cord. As a result, any problem with the spine–like scoliosis–must be taken very seriously.

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition in which the backbone sports an unnatural and potentially-dangerous curve. Although a completely healthy spine will appear curved from the side, it should appear straight from the front and back; in a person with scoliosis, this is not the case. Scoliosis causes the spine to form more curves than normal, resulting in either a “C” or an “S” shape in the backbone. Most cases of scoliosis have no known cause, but in some situations, there may be identifiable problems–like muscle spasms, one leg being longer than the other, an issue in bone formation, or degenerative changes–which cause the condition.

Scoliosis Facts

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  • Risk factors. Age is the biggest risk factor for scoliosis; symptoms most often begin between nine and fifteen years of age. Gender is also a consideration: females are two times more likely to have scoliosis than males. Finally, genetics can come into play when determining risk, but many people with scoliosis are the first in their family to have the condition.
  • Symptoms. Because the spine is responsible for our body’s basic structure, it seems like it would be easy to see the unnatural curves caused by scoliosis–but in truth, the changes will occur slowly. For example, clothes may fit differently, the head may appear off-center, and the waist may be uneven. Scoliosis may also cause discomfort like back or neck pain, but this isn’t a common symptom.
  • Treatment. Although different types of scoliosis demand different treatments, the solution usually comes in three stages: observation, bracing, and surgery. In some cases, all three stages must come into play; in other cases, observation and bracing will be enough to stop the scoliosis from worsening or causing symptoms.

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