Scoliosis is a deformity of the spine which creates a sideways curvature of over 10 degrees. It affects as many as one in every 40 Australians.
The first signs of scoliosis normally appear between the ages of 10 and 15, gradually becoming more visible as the body grows. The change is not always easy to notice due to its gradual progression, but signs include uneven shoulders, an asymmetrical rib cage, a prominent hip or shoulder, and a tilt to one side.
Symptoms are normally directly related to the severity of the curvature. A mild curvature may not cause any adverse symptoms, but a severe curvature may cause respiratory issues and abdominal problems.
Treatment for scoliosis is dependent on the extent of the deformity. For a mild curvature, a brace and monitoring might be enough to prevent the condition from progressing. Spinal fusion surgery may be recommended in more severe cases.
What parents need to know about scoliosis
1. The importance of an early diagnosis – children with a minor curve of the spine can be treated early using a brace, it will not correct the curvature, but can keep the condition from worsening.
2. It is not your fault – most scoliosis cases have no known cause.
3. Scoliosis is genetic – nearly a third of patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis have a family history of the condition.
4. Not all scoliosis patients require treatment – most cases of scoliosis are mild and do not require treatment.
5. Scoliosis treatment is very effective – an early diagnosis is important to cease the progression of the curve, and timely intervention is typically very successful.
Types of scoliosis
· Infantile scoliosis – the curvature develops before the age of three.
· Juvenile idiopathic scoliosis – the curve develops between ages 3 and 10.
· Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) – scoliosis appears in early adolescence.
· Congenital scoliosis – the curve happens due to congenitally abnormal vertebrae. This affects about 1 in every 10,000 people and is often associated with heart and kidney function problems.
· Neuromuscular scoliosis – caused by diseases and disorders of the central nervous system, including cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. It can also be caused by spinal cord injuries.
· Paralytic scoliosis – the curvature is caused by loss of spinal cord function due to disease, disorder, or trauma.
How does scoliosis affect livelihood?
Scoliosis normally won’t affect your general health, with only severe cases affecting lung or abdominal organ function. The condition may also cause considerable back pain – if you experience debilitating pain, see a specialist as soon as possible.
In most cases of scoliosis, the condition won’t interfere with your ability to work or participate in sport. In some extreme cases, it is advisable not to take on a career where heavy lifting is required.
If your child has been diagnosed with scoliosis and you wish to learn more about the condition, please do not hesitate to contact Orthopaedics SA.