Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves laterally (to the side). Scoliosis is fairly easy to diagnose, and can generally be spotted by examining a person’s posture while standing. When viewed head-on from the front or back, an individual with a medically normal spine will appear to have a back that is straight up and down on both sides. An individual suffering from scoliosis, however, will have a back that appears noticeably curved to one side. Often, parents, caregivers or educators notice a child’s scoliosis early on based on things like uneven shoulders or a leaning posture.
Cases of scoliosis can generally be classified as one of four main types:
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- Idiopathic: has no known cause, but evidence of inheritance is strong
- Degenerative: can result from previous injury, surgery or osteoporosis
- Neuromuscular: caused by abnormal muscle or nerve tissue
Although only 2-3% of Americans are diagnosed with scoliosis at age 16, the difficulties of living and functioning normally with a severe case of scoliosis can be quite significant. In some cases, the angle of the spinal curvature can be over 40 degrees. For such individuals, spinal surgery is often recommended.
The correction of severe cases of scoliosis by surgery is generally achieved by permanently fusing vertebrae together with bone grafts where the curve occurs (unless the patient is a young child, whose growth may be affected by such fusion). While it does not necessarily bring the spine into perfectly straight alignment, this surgery attempts to correct the curvature enough to prevent it from worsening. It can also give the patient a more normal posture and better range of motion.
For patients with less severe curvatures, a non-surgical option like bracing can be employed. Although braces cannot correct the already-existing curvature of the spine, they can be used to keep it from worsening. This is a common treatment for adolescent patients who are still growing and whose bones have not yet completely matured.
If you are suffering from mild to severe scoliosis and would like help from Dr. Neece to correct or manage pain or difficulty related to your condition, take a moment to call our clinic and schedule an appointment to discuss your needs.