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A Spinal Condition Known as Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a condition that afflicts approximately 5 to 7 million Americans. Scoliosis is a disorder in which the spine curves sideways. It is sometimes exacerbated by lordosis (curving of the spine inward) or kyphosis (curving of the spine outward.) Scoliosis can be categorized by the three different ways it is caused: a) congenital, b) neuromuscular, and c) idiopathic, or of unknown cause. Scientists believe in the inheritability of scoliosis; however the precise genetics of it still remains to be determined. The most commonly observed form of scoliosis is adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Girls have a greater propensity than boys toward the severity of the condition.

Sometimes the spine itself is normal, but the curvature develops in response to a functional problem elsewhere in the body. This could be caused by muscle spasms in the back, a difference in leg lengths, or even poor posture. In neuromuscular scoliosis, the spinal curvature is caused by muscle weakness or very poor muscle control resulting directly from diseases such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, Marfan's disease, or polio. Thus, scoliosis affects individuals to varying degrees, on a case-by-case basis. Chiropractic care can helpful in treating those with a milder form of functional scoliosis.

Scoliosis has not only physical ramifications, but emotional as well. In particular, teenagers with scoliosis will need additional emotional support and guidance during this crucial growth period. Sometimes the scoliosis is so severe that the rib cage presses against the heart and lungs. This then creates additional heath risks, increasing one's propensity toward lung infections and pneumonia.

Most often, scoliosis occurs in such a mild form that it can only be detected by a professional eye. In such cases, as long as the condition is monitored, there is very little need for concern or alarm. Scoliosis in children and teenagers, though, requires special medical attention and care since their bones are undergoing rapid growth. For those in this age group, the spinal conditions can quickly worsen within a mere few months. Thus, frequent checkups by a medical professional are absolutely essential.

There are a few ways your doctor can use to detect signs of scoliosis. The most preliminary step is to get a postural analysis during your physical examination. If there is any sign of potential scoliosis, your doctor will then refer you to a specialist. Then, a spinal X-ray is taken to pinpoint the exact location and degree of curvature in the spine.

In addition to the spinal X-ray, your doctor may also examine your wrists and bones to help determine your skeletal age and estimate the progression of the spinal curvature. Depending upon your specific condition, your doctor may recommend that you go in for periodic checkups.

The Scoliometer, or inclinometer, is also used as a device to empirically measure the amount of asymmetry in the torso. The Scoliometer is useful for quick estimates in a pain-free, non-invasive way that also helps minimize one's exposure to X-rays.

If the progression of spinal curvature is slow, only very minimal treatment may be required. In contrast, scoliosis in pre-menstrual girls is very likely to develop at a rapid, aggressive rate, especially since girls at this age grow so rapidly. During this growth spurt, the spinal curvature may develop asymmetrically just as quickly. When girls start to menstruate, they don't grow as rapidly anymore. Thus, the scoliosis does not worsen as quickly either.

Beyond medical checkups, treatment for scoliosis includes the use of a brace and/or surgery. When the scoliosis is mild, it does not impinge upon one's lifestyle very much. People can live and function quite normally. There are several different types of braces, but they are all used when a child has not reached skeletal maturity. A brace does not cure scoliosis, nor does it forcibly realign the spine. It helps, however, prevent further progression of the curvature during the child's growth period. Scoliosis surgery, also called spinal fusion, helps correct the curve, but not all the way. The bones in the curve are fused together using metal rods, hooks, screws, or wire to hold the spinal area straight while it heals. Surgery is usually not recommended except in the most severe of cases.

Scoliosis may sometimes mean living with chronic pain. The pain associated with scoliosis can be eased through chiropractic care. For many people with scoliosis, a regular chiropractic regimen is essential in helping them ease the pain and discomfort, and live more normally.

Scoliosis is best treated when detected early. If you suspect that you or your child may have scoliosis, contact your physician immediately.