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What is Scoliosis? – Signs, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Learn the signs and symptoms of Scoliosis and the diagnosing and treatment process with Neuroscience Group.

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a type of spinal deformity that is described as the side-to-side curvature of the spine that is at least >10 degrees when measured on an X-ray. Typically, there is rotation present within the curve of the spine as well, this is what makes the ribs and flank muscle uneven in appearance. The curve caused by Scoliosis can either resemble an S or C shape and appear at any point in the spine.

Another common form of spinal deformity is Kyphosis. Kyphosis is described as when the natural curve of the middle part of the spine becomes more pronounced and causes issues with the spine.

When both side-to-side and front-to-back curvature of the spine is present, this is called kyphoscoliosis.

There are two primary classifications of scoliosis, they are based on the age of onset when it is identified:

  • Early Onset Scoliosis: 
      • Infantile: Occurs when a child is under 3 years of age.
      • Juvenile: Occurs when a child is between 4-9 years of age.
  • Late Onset Scoliosis: Occurs when a child is between 10-17 years of age. This is the most common type of scoliosis.

What Causes Scoliosis?

Scoliosis continues to be researched by scientists, but it is unclear what actually causes scoliosis to occur. Often Scoliosis is diagnosed as “adolescent idiopathic”, where idiopathic means “unknown” because the reason the curve develops is unexplained.

It should be noted that Scoliosis is not caused by poor posture or the use of backpacks.

Signs and Symptoms of Scoliosis

Most often, Scoliosis is a pain-free condition. The first sign of sScoliosis is typically the abnormal curvature of the spine. However, pain can occur as the spine continues to curve and affects the surrounding muscles and joints. Most irritation and pain is caused by the alteration of a person’s alignment, posture, and movement patterns. Strength and flexibility may be lost in the muscles that support the spine due to the imbalances created by Scoliosis.

Common signs & symptoms of Scoliosis:

  • Uneven shoulder height (clothing hangs unevenly)
  • Uneven hip height
  • Uneven waistline
  • A general sense that the 2 sides of the body don’t align
  • Rib cage may be shifted to one side
  • When performing a forward bend, one side of the back is visibly higher

Diagnosis and Treatment of Scoliosis

Scoliosis diagnosis is performed through a series of exams, tests, and a medical history review. The following factors are taken into account when analyzing a patient for Scoliosis: 

  • Health and family history of Scoliosis review
  • Physical exam, including baseline height and weight
  • A baseline Scoliosis series X-ray will be done and the angle of the curve will be measured
  • Adam’s Forward Bend Test
  • Other testing as needed
      • An MRI may be done to look for any spinal cord problems
      • A CT scan may be performed to provide a more detailed view of vertebral body abnormalities.

From these tests, an individualized treatment plan is created that fits the patient’s growth trajectory and the rate at which their Scoliosis is progressing. Scoliosis is often treated conservatively, without surgical correction. 

Considerations when deciding on the aggressiveness of treatment include the size of the curve (Cobb Angle) and whether the patient is done growing or not.

Treatment for scoliosis can include:

  • Observation
  • Scoliosis Brace
  • Physical Therapy
  • Alternative treatments
  • Chiropractic care
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Supplements 
  • Surgery
      • Surgery is only recommended when the curve is progressing to a point that will cause serious health problems.

Manage Scoliosis with Neuroscience Group

The early detection and treatment of scoliosis is crucial to avoid severe long-term effects of the condition. The expert physicians at Neuroscience Group are highly trained in Scoliosis diagnosis and treatment in both pediatric and adult spinal deformities. Their Scoliosis program, Ahead of the Curve, is a conservative approach to Scoliosis treatment with long-term management, evaluation, and bracing. At Neuroscience Group, surgery is considered as a last resort. The clinic has robust preoperative education, pain management specialists, spine-certified physical therapists, advanced practice clinicians with 20+ years of spine experience, and fellowship-trained surgeons with spinal deformity specialties to help you effectively manage Scoliosis. Contact us today to get started.

For a more in-depth review of Scoliosis, diagnosis and treatment options download our Scoliosis Treatment Guide.

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