Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty. It is a disorder that causes an abnormal curve of the spine, or backbone. Curves are often S-shaped or C-shaped.
What Causes Scoliosis?
In most people with scoliosis, the cause is not known. In some cases, there is a known cause. Doctors classify curves as:
Nonstructural: which is when the spine is structurally normal and the curve is temporary. In these cases, the doctor will try to find and correct the cause.
Structural: this is when the spine has a fixed curve. The cause could be a disease, injury, infection, or birth defect.
How is Scoliosis Diagnosed?
The doctor will ask questions, including if there is any family history of scoliosis, or if there has been any pain, weakness, or other medical problems. The physical examination involves looking at the curve of the spine from the sides, front, and back. The person will be asked to undress from the waist up to better see any abnormal curves. The person will then bend over trying to touch their toes. This position makes the curve more prominent. The doctor will also look at the symmetry of the body to see if the hips and shoulders are at the same height. The prognosis for an individual with scoliosis ranges from mainly good to fair, depending on how early the problem is diagnosed and treated.
How is Scoliosis Treated?
Treatment for scoliosis is based on the person’s age, how much more he or she is likely to grow, the degree and pattern of the curve and the type of scoliosis that is occurring. The doctor may recommend the following:
Observation: This method is used for those who are still growing and have a mild curve. The doctor will check every 4-6 months to see if the curve is getting better or worse.
Bracing: Bracing may be used when a person is still growing and has a moderate curve. Doctors may advise wearing a brace to stop the curve from becoming worse.
Surgery: Doctors use surgery to correct a curve or stop it from declining when the person is still growing and the curve is severe. Surgery often involves fusing together two or more bones in the spine. The doctor may also put in a metal rod or other device. These devices are called implants. They stay in the body and keep the spine straight after surgery.
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