Scoliosis is a spine disorder that creates an abnormal curvature, or twisting, of the spine. It can affect people of any age, but it commonly occurs in children between the ages of 10 and 15. Some cases of scoliosis have clear causes, but most cases do not.
A healthy spine is vertically straight when looking at the person’s back from behind, but from the side, it also has a slight natural curve. Scoliosis causes the spine to curve sideways, often in a C or S shape, as well as an unusual profile curve.
What Causes Scoliosis?
There are three types of scoliosis that cause the spine to develop an abnormal curve:
Idiopathic scoliosis is the term used when there is no definite cause of scoliosis, and it accounts for as many as 80% of cases. It usually affects infants, young children, and adolescents, and often occurs during a child’s growth spurt just before reaching puberty. Idiopathic scoliosis often runs in families, and it is also much more common in girls than in boys. The condition is often mild and therefore does not usually require treatment, apart from close monitoring.
Congenital scoliosis is a birth defect affecting the development of the bones of the spine. It develops at an early stage of pregnancy, and it can be caused when the spinal bones don’t form completely, don’t separate correctly, or a combination of both of these.
Neuromuscular scoliosis can be a side effect of conditions such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or muscular dystrophy. People with these conditions often have underdeveloped and weak muscles, which can mean the spine is not supported well; the person can, therefore, develop a side-to-side curvature, particularly during growth spurts.
Other possible causes of scoliosis can include:
- Spinal tumor
- Abnormal bone formation
- Trauma or injury to the spine
- Connective tissue disorder, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which causes abnormalities in the tissues and ligaments
- Genetic muscular conditions such as Down’s syndrome and Marfan’s syndrome
- Degenerative conditions that cause the discs and joints in the spine to wear out
Why Does Scoliosis Have to Be Treated?
Although most cases of scoliosis are mild, some spine deformities become more severe over time. If the curvature worsens, the spine can also twist or rotate, so the ribs will protrude on one side of the body.
A severe spinal curve can be disabling, and it can reduce the amount of space within the chest – making it difficult for the lungs to function properly. Other complications associated with severe scoliosis include lung and heart damage, chronic back pain, and noticeable deformity.
Scoliosis can often improve with treatment. Symptoms of scoliosis can include:
- An obvious curved spine
- Uneven shoulders
- Uneven waist
- One shoulder blade being more pronounced than the other
- One hip higher than the other
- Clothes do not fit well
Structural and Non-Structural Scoliosis
There are two main categories of scoliosis: structural scoliosis and non-structural scoliosis. Structural scoliosis is the most common category and is defined as the spine having a fixed sideways curve to it.
Nonstructural scoliosis, also known as functional scoliosis, is when the spine works normally but appears curved. The curvature is usually the result of an irregularity elsewhere in the body, such as having different leg lengths. Both types of scoliosis can be successfully treated by a spine doctor.
Treatment for Scoliosis in Southeast Michigan
If you suspect that you or your child may be affected by scoliosis, schedule a consultation with Dr. Bradley D. Ahlgren at Ahlgren Spine. Dr. Ahlgren is a board-certified specialist in spinal disorders, including scoliosis.