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Your spine is made up of bones called vertebrae, which are piled on top of each other. The vertebrae are there to protect a bundle of nerve fibers called the spinal cord. The spinal cord runs through an opening in the center of each vertebra.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the structure and function of the spine as it relates to scoliosis.

Looking at from the side, the spine usually has three different curves:

  • C in the cervical spine
  • A reverse C in the thoracic spine
  • C in the lumbar spine

When viewed from behind, your spine should appear to be perfectly straight both up and down. Scoliosis is a medical condition where your spine develops an abnormal side-to-side curve.

The Prevalence of Scoliosis

In the US, scoliosis affects between 6 and 9 million people, which accounts for 2% to 3% of the country’s population. Furthermore, according to NSF research, between 500,000 and 600,000 people seek scoliosis treatment each year.

In some cases, scoliosis may be present at birth. It can also develop in infancy. But the condition mainly occurs between the ages of 10 and 15. Although it occurs in both males and females, research indicates that girls are 8X more likely to develop scoliosis during their lifetime than boys.

What Generally Causes Scoliosis

Scoliosis is classified by its cause and most cases fall into of the following groups:

1. Idiopathic Scoliosis
Recent research shows that roughly 80% of scoliosis cases are idiopathic. That means they don’t have an identifiable cause. Adolescent scoliosis is by far the most common one. Although sometimes it’s detected early, most adolescent scoliosis diagnoses occur in the patient’s adolescence.

2. Congenital Scoliosis
This type of scoliosis occurs from embryological deformity of at least one vertebrae. Furthermore, it can cause spine abnormalities because one area of the patient spinal columns elongates slower than other parts. The location of the spinal abnormality determines the rate at which the condition progresses. It occurs in roughly 1 in 10,000 babies and it’s much less common than adolescent scoliosis

3. Neuromuscular Scoliosis
Neuromuscular scoliosis is the rarest of the three. Less than 2,500 neuromuscular scoliosis cases are reported per year. Neuromuscular scoliosis includes cases associated with chronic diseases such as muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, and cerebral palsy. This form of scoliosis professes quicker than the other two forms and in most cases, requires immediate medical attention.

The Most Common Scoliosis Risk Factors

Some of the biggest risk factors for developing scoliosis during a lifetime include:

  • Your Age: As mentioned before, age is a big factor for scoliosis. Early scoliosis signs become noticeable during the first growth spurt that happens just before the child enters puberty. 
  • Your Sex: Even though both sexes suffer from mild symptoms of scoliosis at a similar rate, females have much more chances of their conditioning deteriorating over time.
  • Your Genes: If you have a history of scoliosis in your family, there’s a bigger chance you will start experiencing scoliosis symptoms at one point in your life.  

Early Signs and Symptoms of Scoliosis

Most people diagnosed with scoliosis found out they have the condition in early childhood. The deformity is often discovered during a medical examination after birth due to a visible back abnormality.

One of the reasons why scoliosis is so hard to detect during late teens and adulthood is because the condition causes no pain. If the abnormality isn’t detected during the first few months, it can go undetected for years. Most children first notice that there’s something wrong with their back when their clothes don’t fit properly. Parents also discover scoliosis when they take their children to the beach and notice the curvature in the swimming suit.

Some of the more obvious scoliosis signs and symptoms include:

  • One of the child’s shoulder blades protruding more than the other
  • The child’s waistline being visibly uneven
  • One of the hips being higher than the other one
  • The child apparently leaning to the side with no reason
  • Ribs being more visible on one side than on the other 
  • The child’s eye line being slightly tilted
  • The child’s mid-ear not lining up with the tip of the shoulder

The best scoliosis detection method is Adam’s forward bend test. The test requires you to bend forward and have someone see whether your ribs on the right side are sticking out. If the ribs are sticking out in a strange way, it’s time to visit the doctor.

During the examination, a specialist will perform a posture analysis. This will determine if there are any serious scoliosis signs and if there’s any need for medical intervention.

How to Treat Scoliosis

When it comes to treating scoliosis, different cases require different treatments. The doctor determines whether scoliosis will become more severe over time. Usually, one of the following actions is suggested:

1. Exercises
For a mild case of scoliosis, doctors usually recommend exercise, physical therapy, and medical observation to ensure that the curve isn’t getting worse. Doing yoga exercises can increase the patient’s flexibility and decrease the pain levels they are experiencing.

2. Bracing
Treating a moderate case of scoliosis involves wearing a scoliosis brace to stop the spine from curving any further. Doctors usually recommend bracing or casting to people with congenital scoliosis. Sometimes, however, they are used to regulate compensatory curves, even if the vertebrae are of normal shape.

3. Surgery
Surgical treatment is recommended only if the patient has curves that have drastically worsen over a short period of time. Doctors perform the surgery in an effort to allow the patient’s chest and spine to grow as normally as possible. There are several scoliosis-related surgeries, including spinal fusion, hemivertebra removal, and growing-rod insertion.

Scoliosis is a serious condition that can affect the patient physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Although rare cases are life-threatening, a lot of cases require surgery. Every year, more than 20,000 children and adolescents have scoliosis-related surgery.     

If someone you know or you’re related to is showing any scoliosis symptoms, advise them to contact us as soon as possible. We may be able to help them with scoliosis braces for adults.

Contact us to discuss scoliosis bracing for adults