What is scoliosis?
Your spine, or backbone, runs down your back from the base of the skull. Although everyone’s spine has a slight curve, people with scoliosis have a spine that curves too much from side to side. Instead of running straight down the back, a spine affected by scoliosis may curve in a “C” or an “S” shape.
- Scoliosis is a common spine condition.
- It can occur at any age, but usually appears during childhood.
- Scoliosis affects approximately one in every 40 children.
- The majority of cases are diagnosed when children are age 10 or older.
- Scoliosis is more common in females.
- There is nothing a parent can do to prevent scoliosis from developing.
- Spinal curves caused by scoliosis will not straighten out on their own.
- Scoliosis is rarely life-threatening, and most cases remain mild.
What are the common symptoms of scoliosis?
The main sign of scoliosis is a visible sideways (“lateral”) bend or curve in the spine. Some other signs and symptoms of scoliosis include:
- Tendency to lean to one side.
- Clothing doesn’t fit properly. As the condition develops, clothing may no longer fit as well as it once did. You may notice that pant legs are longer on one side than the other.
- Head position may change. Scoliosis may cause the head to appear off center.
- Shoulders and hips may no longer be level. As the curve develops, one shoulder or hip may be higher than the other.
- The rib cage may look different on one side compared to the other.
- Breathing may be difficult. When scoliosis is more severe, the curvature can interfere with the function of the lungs and heart, causing shortness of breath, chest pain, or back pain.
How is scoliosis diagnosed?
Scoliosis is generally diagnosed with a physical examination. When appropriate, your physician may also order an X-ray to determine the extent of the curve.
How is scoliosis treated nonsurgically?
Many people with scoliosis do not need treatment. They lead normal lives, but the small curve in their spine never goes away.
- Regular monitoring for any changes or worsening of the curve is recommended.
- For moderate scoliosis, a back brace may be recommended.
What are the surgical treatment options for scoliosis?
If the spine’s curve is very large, it may become more severe over time. Some severe curves affect the heart and lungs. In these cases, surgery may be considered.
Spinal Fusion Surgery
Spinal fusion can address extreme curvature of the spine caused by scoliosis. During this surgery, a vertebral bone is attached, or “fused,” to an adjacent vertebral bone so that they grow together into one long bone. A fusion will reduce freedom of movement in the spine by making the fused vertebral bones immobile, but that immobility prevents the spine from curving further.
How spine fusion works:
- During surgery, a bone graft is added to the spine segment being fused.
- Your body grows new bony tissue over the bone graft between the two vertebral segments, fusing them together.
- When the fused bones heal, the fusion prevents movement at the joint.
More resources on fusion surgery:
- Check out information on Minimally Invasive Spine Fusions versus Spinal Fusion Surgery
- Learn how to Prepare for Spine Fusion Surgery
- Find out more on the Gold Standard in Spine Surgery
Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive spine expertise
Summit’s spine care team is recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance for the comprehensive expertise of our patient-centered care. Our back specialists diagnose spine problems and design custom treatment plans built on a conservative, nonsurgical approach. Most patients find relief through treatments including guided injections, specialized physical therapy, biofeedback, exercise, activity modification, and medication. When conservative care does not relieve symptoms, our highly skilled surgeons offer proven, evidence-based surgical options. Together with you, we will determine the right course of action.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.
More resources for you:
Scoliosis may be as old as England’s King Richard III, but medical treatments have come a long way since the 15th century.
The signs of this spine condition develop slowly. We’ve got tips to help you identify the signs and symptoms of scoliosis so that you can seek medical evaluation and treatment while symptoms are in the early stages.
This spine condition is fairly common. We discuss the different types of scoliosis, and explain how medical treatment can help scoliosis patients live full active lives.