5 Things to Know About Scoliosis

Posted on: June 13th, 2024 by Michael Roh, MD

June is Scoliosis Awareness Month, a campaign to highlight the growing need for education, early detection and awareness about scoliosis and its prevalence. Here are five important things you should know about the disease.

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a medical condition where the spine curves sideways. Normally, our spines have gentle curves that help us move, balance, and support our weight. With scoliosis, the spine twists or curves to the side, forming an “S” or “C” shape. This curvature can occur at any part of the spine but is most common in the upper spine. Scoliosis can range from mild to severe, and while mild cases may not cause many issues, severe scoliosis can impact lung function and cause significant pain.

Who Gets Scoliosis?

Scoliosis can affect people of all ages, but it most commonly develops in children and adolescents, especially during growth spurts between the ages of 10 and 15. Approximately two to three percent of the population is affected by scoliosis and it tends to run in families, suggesting a genetic component. Girls are more likely than boys to develop more severe forms of scoliosis that require treatment. Adults can also develop scoliosis, often due to degenerative changes in the spine associated with aging, such as arthritis or osteoporosis.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs of scoliosis can be easy to miss, especially in the early stages. Some common signs include uneven shoulders, one shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other, an uneven waist, one hip higher than the other or a bump in the lower back. Sometimes, individuals with the disease may notice clothes may fit unevenly or hang improperly. In more severe cases, scoliosis can cause back pain and difficulty breathing.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Scoliosis is typically diagnosed through a combination of a physical examination and imaging tests like X-rays. During a physical exam, a doctor might use a scoliometer to measure the degree of spinal curvature. Treatment varies based on the degree of the curve and the patient’s age. Mild cases often require regular monitoring, while moderate curves might be managed with bracing to prevent progression. Severe cases, especially those that cause pain or respiratory issues, may require surgical interventions such as spinal fusion, where the vertebrae are fused to straighten and stabilize the spine.

Living with Scoliosis

With appropriate treatment and care, most people with scoliosis can lead normal, active lives. Physical therapy and exercises designed to strengthen the back muscles can help manage symptoms and improve posture. Activities like swimming, yoga, and Pilates can also be beneficial. For those with severe scoliosis, ongoing medical care and monitoring are essential to manage symptoms and prevent complications.

Understanding scoliosis is the first step in raising awareness and supporting those affected by it. This June, take the time to learn more and spread the word about the disease. If you think you or someone you know might have scoliosis, take the first step towards a pain-free life and consult with one of our experts in spine and neck care today.

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