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Scoliosis

“It was discovered I had scoliosis when I was 10, my curve was somewhere between 55-65 degrees. The specialist visit came at 14 and because of the severity of the curve, I had surgery at 15. Naturally surgery involved varied risk including the possibility of NO children but the pain along with numbness and the risk of my ribs puncturing my lungs and leading to possible death, it was decided that surgery was the only option here.”

“At 14 it is difficult, although in pain, to be told to wear this awful look back brace, so I didn’t and now at age 34, the pains are severe. I have two kids and a husband and the discomfort is so bad at times that it is almost impossible for me to lift up my toddler. I have become a housewife because the time off taken and ‘seemingly constant’ excuses made to my employer became too much for them, and my regular work and house load too much for me. I am seriously considering doing fusion surgery cause the pains are now constant and quite unbearable.”

“I have a mild case, just back pains, and arch supports (orthotics) were recommended by my specialist. Been using them consistently and as stated it truly supports my back, taking the pressure off the spine.”

All of these are real situations people experience on a daily basis. Some of us suffer in silence! Let’s examine what this condition is and what can be done to treat with it.

Scoliosis Defined

It’s a disorder that manifests itself in the form of an abnormal curving of the spine. Scoliosis is also referred to as a curvature of the spine. It often occurs during the pre-puberty growth spurt. Your spine appears to have curves via a side examination but a straight appearance should be observed from a frontal examination. Like with many other ailments, it is prominent more in girls . . . twice as much.

Signs and Symptoms

These include:

• An abnormal curve of the spine. Most times this is noticed by an external source, a family friend or family doctor, since it is rarely identified by the individual or family member unless it is quite significant or causes pain. A number of cases tend to be pain free.
• Unevenness in the shoulders where one appears to be more prominent than the other.
• One hip higher than the other which also presents unevenness in the waist.
• In severe cases, twisting and rotation of the spine also occur, which results in back pains. Some persons with untreated scoliosis may develop spinal arthritis. Other issues that may present in these severe cases are difficulty with heart and lung function, leading to chest pains and shortness of breath. In extremely severe cases, there could be damage to the heart and lungs. When breathing is compromised, there is a higher risk of pneumonia or lung infections developing.

Causes

The precise cause is still unknown, although, it is purported that there are hereditary factors as it tends to run in families. There is no trend, however, in the degree of the curve from generation to generation.

Some categories based on age include:

• Infantile Idiopathic Scoliosis – in children under 3 years of age
• Juvenile Idiopathic Scoliosis – in children between the 3 – 10 years grouping
• Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis – in children over 10 years of age
• Degenerative Adult Scoliosis – in persons over 40.

Other main types of scoliosis include functional and neuromuscular:

• Functional – the spine seems normal, however, an abnormal curve develops as a result of problems occurring in another part of the body. Causes of this are usually muscle spasms in the back, or leg length discrepancies (a shorter leg).
• Neuromuscular – The problem develops as a result of spinal bones failing to separate from each other, or bones failing to form completely. Generally person with muscular dystrophy, birth defects and cerebral palsy amongst others are at risk. Curves that are observed at birth are called congenital scoliosis.
• Other potential causes such as spine tumors like osteoid osteoma, a benign tumor that generates pain and discomfort, could lead to a deformity of the spine.

Tests and Diagnosis

At the first sign of irregularities in the shape of the spine or back pains, visit your doctor and have a physical examination and x-ray done. In some instances, a CT scan or MRI may be requested, and given your health is your wealth, it is worth the investment to decipher what the problems are, and what steps should be taken to rectify it early.Results from tests allow the doctor to see the degree of the curve and measure it to determine whether any treatment is required. The patient would generally be required to make quarterly or semi-annually visits to measure, examine and compare from the previous visits if the curve is stagnant or getting worse.

Treatment

The curve pattern, location and perceived severity determine whether treatment options need to be explored. Should treatment be needed, the options are specialised exercises, physical therapy, using arch supports (orthotics), wearing a brace, or surgery.

• Specialised exercises/physical therapy – this is recommended for persons who are a bit beyond mild but not severe. In severe cases this treatment option is necessary however; it will be needed in conjunction with other treatments.
• Arch supports (orthotics) – these help with supporting the back via the feet.
• Brace – For moderate scoliosis in children, a doctor may recommend a brace. The brace won’t cure or reverse the curve, but it usually prevents further progression of the condition.
Braces come in two types:
• Underarm or low-profile brace – It’s made of modern plastic materials and is constructed to match the body’s shape. Close-fitting, it’s almost invisible under the clothes, since it fits under the arms and around the rib cage, lower back and hips. These are not helpful for curves in the upper spine.
• Milwaukee brace – A full-torso brace with a neck ring that has rests for the chin and back of the head. It has a flat bar in the front, and two flat bars in the back. Being more cumbersome, it generally is used when the underarm brace is not workable.
Surgery
This may involve decompression, bone spur removal, or spinal fusion. The spinal fusion is done to stabilise the spine and if possible correct the abnormality. Metal rods, hooks, screws or wires may be used to hold the spine straight while the bone heals in the same way a cast is done for a broken bone.
What is the Outlook for Scoliosis?
People with scoliosis can have a normal life and once careful, become pregnant without any particular problems. However, these persons may experience a bit more back pains than others. With no established cure yet, work along with your specialist to explore the various treatment options to decide what is best suited for you.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!

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