Scoliosis: Symptoms & Treatment


Scoliosis is a disorder wherein there is an abnormal curve of the spine or backbone. There is an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine which can cause your back to look sideways.

Pediatric Scoliosis is more often diagnosed in childhood and early adolescence. It can affect people of all ages, from infants to adults, but scoliosis is more common in children from 10 to 15 years old. Scoliosis affects about 2% of women and 0.5% on men.

Types of Scoliosis

Infantile Idiopathic Scoliosis: for toddlers who are less than 3 years old
Juvenile Idiopathic Scoliosis: for children between 3 to 10 years old
Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis: for adolescents between 10 to 18 years old

Medical terms for Scoliosis:

  • Kyphoscoliosis: a combination of outward and lateral spine curvature
  • Dextroscoliosis: curvature of the spine to the right
  • Rotoscoliosis: curvature of the vertebral column turned on its axis
  • Levoconvex: curvature of the spine to the left
  • Thoracolumbar: curvature related to both the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine

Causes of Scoliosis:

What are the factors that cause scoliosis?

  • Functional: Although the spine is normal, an abnormal curve develops because of a problem somewhere else in the body. One leg being shorter than the other or by muscle spasms in the back might cause this type of scoliosis.
  • Neuromuscular: Upon the formation of the spine, some parts of the bone develops a problem. The bones of the spine could either fail to form completely or they fail to separate from each other during fetal development. This type of congenital scoliosis develops in people with other disorders, including birth defects, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, or Marfan syndrome (an inherited connective tissue disease). People with these conditions often develop along the C-shaped curve and have weak muscles that are unable to hold them up straight. Congenital cause is when the curve is present at birth.
  • Degenerative: This type of scoliosis occurs in adults. It is caused by changes in the spine due to arthritis known as spondylosis. The normal ligaments and other soft tissues of the spine tend to weaken and combined with abnormal bone spurs, this can lead to an abnormal curvature of the spine. Osteoporosis, vertebral compression fractures, and disc degeneration also affects the spine.

Symptoms of Scoliosis:

For mild scoliosis, the curve on the spine would not be that visible, but for severe scoliosis, symptoms would include:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • One shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other
  • Uneven waist
  • One hip higher than the other
  • Rotating and twisting spine

Risk factors of Scoliosis:

  • Age: Signs and symptoms usually start during the growth spurt that occurs just before puberty hits.
  • Sex: Although both male and female develop mild scoliosis at about the same rate, women have a much higher risk of the curve worsening and requiring treatment compared to men.
  • Family history: Scoliosis can run in families, however, most children with scoliosis don’t have a family history of the disease.

If left untreated, Scoliosis can cause complications including:

  • Lung and heart damage: In severe scoliosis, the rib cage can press against the lungs and heart which will make it more difficult to breathe and the heart would be required to pump harder than normal.
  • Back problems: Adults who had scoliosis as children are more likely to have developed chronic back pain than most people in general.
  • Appearance: As scoliosis worsens, changes such as unlevel shoulders, prominent ribs, uneven hips, and a shift of the waist and trunk to the side would be more noticeable.

Scoliosis can be diagnosed and detected through the following tests:

  • X-ray: Application of radiation to produce a film or picture of a part of the body can show the structure of the vertebrae and the outline of the joints. X-rays of the spine are obtained to search for other potential causes of pain, i.e. infections, fractures, deformities, etc.
  • Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan): A diagnostic image created after a computer reads X-rays; can show the shape and size of the spinal canal, its contents and the structures around it. More detailed than an Xray.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A diagnostic test that produces 3D images of body structures using powerful magnets and computer technology. It can show the spinal cord, nerve roots and surrounding areas, as well as enlargement, degeneration, and deformities.

Treatments of Scoliosis:

scoliosis treatment

Scoliosis doesn’t usually go away especially if not treated. There are certain treatments that patients with scoliosis could do in order to manage their condition. Treatments would vary depending on the severity of the condition.

Observation: Most children diagnosed with mild scoliosis do not require treatment. But, if the doctor can detect that the curve is increasing, he can examine the child every four to six months. Adults are recommended to have Xrays once every five years.

Bracing: Braces are only for patients who have not reached skeletal maturity. If a child’s curve is between 25 and 40 degrees, scoliosis doctor will recommend a brace to prevent the curve from progressing. Braces used with full compliance has successfully stopped curve progression in about 80% of children. Braces should be checked regularly to ensure proper fit and may need to be worn 16 to 23 hours a day until the growth of the curve stops.

Surgery: Surgery would only be recommended in children if the spinal curve is more than 40 degrees and signs of progression are present. In adults, physician would usually recommend when their spinal curve is greater than 50 degrees and patients has experience nerve damage to their leg/s and/or is experiencing bowel or bladder symptoms.

If you are looking for scoliosis pain treatments, Dr. Ronak Patel is a scoliosis specialist in New Jersey. He can assess and help you manage your condition and help you find treatments that are suitable for you. He is also a back specialist who can help manage chronic back pains. To book an appointment, you can call him at his pain management clinic in New Jersey at 609-269-4451. Book now for a consultation before it’s too late!