A Brief Overview of Scoliosis


Scoliosis is defined as an abnormal curvature of the spine.  This is often a complex three-dimensional deformity.  On x-ray, as view from the front or back, the spine may look like an “S” or a “C” shape instead of a straight line.

Scoliosis can occur in adolescents.  The reason for its development is somewhat of a mystery.  It may be the result of genetic factors, neuromuscular disease, syndromes or physical trauma.  It may also arise in elderly patients as a result of the spine degenerating over time.  With growth and advancing age the deformity may progress or worsen with an increase in the magnitude or degree of curvative, twisting and rotating of the spine in an abnormal direction.

Signs and symptoms may include, back pain, night pain, leg symptoms, a rib prominence, uneven musculature in the back, and uneven shoulders, hips, or legs.  In severe cases where curves reach over 60 degrees lung and heart function can become compromised.

When children’s curves reach 20 to 25 degrees they may require bracing.  When curves reach over 40 to 50 degrees they may require surgery.  Adults may require surgery if the deformity is debilitating or rapidly progressing.  Otherwise observation, physical therapy and pain management may be the best course of action with medications and periodic injections to control the discomfort.

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