Scoliosis Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment Options
Scoliosis is a medical condition characterized by the abnormal curvature of the spine. It can occur in any part of the spine, but it is most commonly seen in the thoracic and lumbar regions.
Scoliosis can occur in people of all ages, but it is most commonly diagnosed in children and adolescents during their growth spurts. It is estimated to affect about 2-3% of the population, and it is more common in girls than boys.
Scoliosis can range in severity, from mild cases that do not require treatment to severe cases that can significantly affect a person’s quality of life.
In this article, we will explore the pathophysiology, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options for scoliosis.
Pathophysiology of Scoliosis
The spine is made up of a series of vertebrae that are stacked on top of each other. The vertebrae are held in place by a network of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. When there is an abnormal curvature of the spine, these muscles, tendons, and ligaments are not able to support the spine in a normal position.
There are two types of scoliosis: structural scoliosis and functional scoliosis.
Structural scoliosis is caused by a structural abnormality in the spine. This can be due to a congenital defect (present at birth) or a degenerative condition (such as osteoporosis). Structural scoliosis is more common in adolescents and is typically more severe than functional scoliosis.
Functional scoliosis is caused by an underlying medical condition that affects the muscles and ligaments supporting the spine. This can be due to a muscle imbalance, muscle spasm, or other medical conditions such as cerebral palsy or fibromyalgia. Functional scoliosis is more common in adults and is typically less severe than structural scoliosis.
The exact scoliosis cause is unknown. In most cases, there is no known cause for the condition. This is known as idiopathic scoliosis. Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common type of scoliosis and is seen in about 80% of cases. It typically occurs in adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18.
There are several theories about the cause of idiopathic scoliosis. One theory is that it may be due to genetics. There is a higher risk of developing scoliosis if there is a family history of the condition. Another theory is that it may be due to abnormal growth patterns during development.
In addition to idiopathic scoliosis, there are several other causes of scoliosis. These include:
– Congenital scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is present at birth and is caused by a structural abnormality in the spine. It can be due to a birth defect or a problem with the development of the spine.
– Neuromuscular scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is caused by an underlying medical condition that affects the muscles and ligaments supporting the spine. This can be due to conditions such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or spina bifida.
– Degenerative scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is caused by the degeneration of the spine. It is more common in adults and is typically seen in people with osteoporosis or other degenerative conditions.
One of the most common scoliosis symptoms is an uneven appearance of the shoulders or hips. The shoulders may appear higher on one side, or the hip may appear higher on one side. This can be noticeable when the person is standing upright or when they are bending over.
Another common scoliosis symptoms is a protruding rib cage. The rib cage may appear more pronounced on one side, giving the appearance of a hunched back. This can be noticeable when the person is standing upright or when they are bending over.
Other common symptoms of scoliosis include:
– Back pain: Scoliosis can cause back pain due to the abnormal curvature of the spine. The pain may be worse when standing or walking for long periods of time.
– Fatigue: Scoliosis can cause fatigue due to the strain on the muscles and ligaments supporting the spine.
– Difficulty breathing: Scoliosis can cause difficulty breathing due to the abnormal curvature of the spine. This can be particularly noticeable when the person is exercising or engaging in physical activity.
– Balance problems: Scoliosis can cause balance problems due to the abnormal curvature of the spine. This can make it difficult for the person to walk or stand upright.
– Uneven legs: Scoliosis can cause one leg to appear shorter than the other due to the abnormal curvature of the spine.
It is important to note that the severity of the scoliosis symptoms may vary depending on it’s severity.
In mild cases, the symptoms may be minimal or even go unnoticed. In severe cases, the symptoms can be more pronounced and have a significant impact on the person’s quality of life.
Scoliosis Diagnostic Options
Physical Exam – The first step in diagnosing scoliosis is a physical exam. During the exam, the doctor will look for signs of scoliosis such as uneven shoulders, a protruding rib cage, or a tilted pelvis. The doctor may also ask the patient to bend forward to see if there is a curvature of the spine.
X-ray – An X-ray is a common diagnostic tool for scoliosis. An X-ray can show the curvature of the spine and the severity of the condition. It can also help the doctor determine if there are any underlying structural abnormalities in the spine.
CT Scan (computed tomography) scan is a type of X-ray that produces detailed images of the spine. It can help the doctor see the curvature of the spine in more detail and identify any structural abnormalities.
MRI – An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a diagnostic test that uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the spine. It can help the doctor see the curvature of the spine and any underlying structural abnormalities in more detail.
Scoliosis Treatment Options
In mild cases of scoliosis, the doctor may recommend observation as a treatment option. This means that the patient will be monitored periodically to see if the curvature of the spine is getting worse. If the curvature does not worsen, no further treatment may be necessary.
A scoliosis brace is a device that is worn around the chest and back to help stabilize the spine. It is typically used for mild to moderate cases of scoliosis in adolescents. The brace is worn for most of the day and is removed only for bathing and exercise.
Physical therapy can be helpful in managing scoliosis. It can help to improve muscle strength and flexibility, which can help to support the spine. Physical therapy can also help to improve mobility and overall quality of life.
Surgery is typically reserved for severe cases of scoliosis that are not responsive to other treatment options. There are several different types of surgery for scoliosis, including spinal fusion and instrumentation. Spinal fusion involves fusing two or more vertebrae together to stabilize the spine. Instrumentation involves the use of metal rods and screws to hold the spine in place.