Scoliosis Q & A
What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a condition of the spine that causes the spine to assume an unnatural curve during development. The curve can be too far toward the front, too far toward one side or it can incorporate both planes, resulting in a rotational effect. The effects of scoliosis can range from mild to severe, and assessments during childhood while the spine is still growing and developing are important for catching the condition as early as possible.
What kinds of problems can scoliosis cause?
The symptoms of scoliosis vary, depending on the severity of the condition. In more moderate to severe stages, people with scoliosis can develop chronic back pain and neck pain that, in some cases, can interfere with normal movement or decrease overall quality of life. As the spine twists, it can exert uneven forces on the spine, increasing the risk of herniated discs and other spine-related conditions. People with arthritis or other spine conditions and those whose jobs require them to stand or sit for long periods of time may experience worse symptoms. Very mild forms of the disease often cause no symptoms at all.
How is scoliosis treated?
People with mild scoliosis typically require no treatment; however, they should have routine evaluations of their spine to ensure the condition does not become worse over time. More severe forms of scoliosis may require braces to help stabilize the spine during childhood and adolescence, coaxing the spine to grow normally. Physical therapy may be used to reduce strain and strengthen the spine, and oral or injected pain medications can be very helpful in reducing inflammation and discomfort. People with severe scoliosis may require surgery to fuse areas of the spine which have become unstable, enabling the spine to assume and maintain a normal shape. Typically, surgery is reserved for patients whose spines are actively and aggressively moving into a more curved shape, to address chronic pain, and in those for whom more conservative treatment approaches have proven ineffective in controlling symptoms or preventing further curvature.