BENGALURU: The spine has 3 curves which give it an S-shaped curve and helps us maintain proper balance and improves mobility and flexibility. Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine bends abnormally.In Scoliosis, the spine bends to the side abnormally; either to the right or left. This spinal deformity puts pressure on the nerves surrounding the spine or even on the spinal cord itself. When this happens, the person experiences weakness, numbness, and pain in their lower extremities. As the condition progresses, the curvature becomes more pronounced and in severe cases the pressure on the spinal cord may make it difficult for a person to walk.
In some cases, scoliosis can cause the chest to twist as the ribs on one side of the body stick out further when bending over. In cases where there are chest deformities due to scoliosis, the heart and lungs can also be affected. This leads to more severe secondary health issues such as breathing problems and even heart failure. Fortunately these symptoms are relatively rare.Scoliosis keeps progressing in time and as it advances, the individual’s symptoms get worse and they can even develop new symptoms. A scoliosis individual can remain active and continue to participate in their favourite activities and sports, although they may require wearing a brace. These activities will help to keep their core strong which in turn is good for their back.
Scoliosis in children
While scoliosis may develop in infancy or early childhood, the most common age for it to occur is early puberty. Most cases of scoliosis are first detected between the ages of 9 and 13. Since the condition is related to growth, it tends to progress faster during this time of rapid growth.
Scoliosis in adolescents
Of the approximately 2-2.5 per cent of adolescents with scoliosis, the curve will worsen in about 10 per cent. Though it is unclear why, scoliosis occurs equally across both genders but it progresses 8 times more in girls as compared to boys. This is why specialists recommend that all adolescents, especially girls, should be screened frequently during this time.
How to tackle scoliosis effectively?
An early consultation with a spine specialist will ensure a prompt diagnosis. This will improve the patient’s prognosis as well as help to prevent the progression of the condition. Surgery is a common treatment option for people suffering from scoliosis, but there are several other non-invasive treatments for scoliosis.
Children with mild scoliosis will only require regular check-ups every 4-6 months to ensure that the curvature has not increased. In such cases, surgery is not necessary although treatment with a brace may be recommended. Spine specialists generally recommend looking into other forms of corrective measures before going under the knife.The usage of wall bar exercises, Swiss ball exercises, foam roller stretches, and yoga poses can help to maintain the patient’s interest in regular exercise. These exercises help to slow down the progression of the curve as well as improve overall flexibility and mobility.
The author is a senior spine physiotherapist, Qi Spine Cline
What causes scoliosis?
Unknown causes - In about 80 per cent of cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown.
Neuromuscular conditions- These are conditions that affect the nerves and muscles. About 20 per cent of scoliosis cases are caused by neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. In such cases, the child may not be able to walk or stay upright which further interferes with their spinal growth.Present at birth- this is rare and occurs because the bones in the spine grow abnormally while the child is still developing in the womb.
Leg length- if one leg is longer than the other, the individual may develop scoliosis.
Symptoms of scoliosis?
One of the first symptoms of scoliosis is a change in the appearance of the back.
One shoulder or hip is higher than the other
One shoulder blade is higher than the other
The ribs on one side angle more than the other
One arm hangs down lower than the other
An asymmetrical waist