• Jonathan R. Williams // Digital Marketing at Crescent Regional Hospital

Is Scoliosis Throwing You a Curve?

Updated: Jun 10



WHAT IS SCOLIOSIS?

Scoliosis, originating from the Greek word “skolios,” meaning bent, is literally defined as an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine. As a rule, everyone has a natural S-shaped curvature in their spine that can be seen from the side. However, when you are looking at someone from behind, you should see their spine as a straight line from the base of the neck to the coccyx (tailbone). With scoliosis, there is a mild curvature in the spine which typically does not worsen – but, that’s not to say it couldn’t. Although not common, the curvature can increase with time and, in that case, intervention would be necessary. The main identifiers for needing to seek treatment would be labored breathing and/or more frequent and heightened, back pain. However, most minor curves in the spine won’t ever require any surgery or specialized care.


WHO DOES IT AFFECT?

The majority of children with scoliosis are diagnosed prior to or during puberty and are typically female, rather than male. On average, less than 2% of the population is impacted, and it has been found to be hereditary and determined through genetics. In most situations when scoliosis is present during adolescents, they are idiopathic with no identifiable cause, and will remain stable through time. Conversely, the exceptions to the “idiopathic rule” would be curvatures caused by tumors, congenital illnesses, and diseases experienced prior to puberty.


Of the diagnosed scoliosis cases, elderly adults are in the minority of people negatively affected by scoliosis, by what is called “degenerative scoliosis.” This happens for one of two reasons: (1) idiopathic scoliosis was already present, was exacerbated by the aging process in general and the collective stresses on our body; and (2) individuals who developed a late-life degenerative disorder resulting in similar results as the ones affecting adolescent scoliosis patients.

HOW IS SCOLIOSIS DIAGNOSED?

Scoliosis is diagnosed by means of a physical examination and confirmed with X-rays of the spine. It may be necessary to perform an MRI or CAT scan to examine the nerves, muscles, or other connected structures that are being affected by the curvature.


Signifiers of Scoliosis

  • Each of your shoulders are vertically uneven

  • The bone juts out of one shoulder blade farther than the other

  • Unbalanced abdominal girth

  • One hip positioned higher than the other

  • Leaning towards one side of the body because of an unequal posture, which leaves the upper body open for such movements

  • Curves generate a twist in the spine, and this causes the ribs on one side of the body to stand out wider than they would otherwise. In contrast, this is severe and only represents a small fraction of occurrences.

EXERCISES TO EASE DISCOMFORT

While the following exercises are not strictly tailored to your unique scoliosis diagnosis, they are a wonderful place to start. Occasionally, these basic strength and conditioning exercises are sufficient to alleviate moderate scoliosis symptoms.


Step Down and Reach with One Arm

  1. Determine which leg is longer than the other while lying on your back.

  2. Find a step, or a box, which you can utilize for the following actions 3-6.

  3. Stand on the box/stair with both feet planted firmly. With your shorter leg, determined in step 1, take a step down and backwards and stretch your arm on the same side forward, i.e. if you stepped back with your left leg, reach forward with your left arm.

  4. As your knee bends while leaning forward, keep your back foot planted firmly. Once stable, slowly raise and then lower your back foot to the floor slowly.

  5. As your foot descends to the floor each time, move the outwardly stretched arm on the same side of your body (Step 3) from being parallel to the floor, or 180 degrees, to being perpendicular at a 90-degree angle. Stretch your arm as much as you can without hurting yourself. If your left foot is going down, your left arm is going up.

  6. Perform this 5-10 times, shake it out, and repeat two to three more times. (Or, in other words, 3-4 sets of 5-10 reps.)

  7. Repeat the drill on the opposite side.

Upward and Downward Dog

  1. While in a prone plank stance, with your forearms and tip toes on the floor (think standing at a closed door and banging on it with your fists, but facing the ground instead of standing.

  2. Once stable, flex the muscles around your pelvis, clenching your booty, and while remaining clinched, thrust your booty up into the air. Hold for two seconds, then slowly return your hips back to being on the same plain as the rest of your body.

  3. Attempt to lower yourself as low as possible without causing yourself too much discomfort or pulled muscles.

  4. Perform this 5-10 times, shake it out, and repeat two to three more times. (Or, in other words, 3-4 sets of 5-10 reps.)

Split Stance with Extended Arm

  1. With your longer leg (determined in the “Step Down and Reach” exercise) in front, take a step forward with a slightly exaggerated stride length.

  2. Maintain an erect torso creating a 90-degree angle between your torso and the floor.

  3. Begin transferring your weight back and forth, bending the front knee as the weight is transferred to it.

  4. As you move your weight forward, elevate your opposite arm as high as possible with your leg being stretched forward.

  5. While that arm is stretching upward, stretch the other arm back as far as possible with the palm up. This causes the body and spine to rotate toward the front leg's side.

  6. Perform this 5-10 times, shake it out, and repeat two to three more times.

DIAGNOSIS & YOUR OPTIONS

To reach a diagnosis, doctors utilize X-rays to find the angle of the curve and subsequently, will monitor it as to preventatively treat and eliminate any issues that might occur. Doctors are able to identify any progression by measuring shape, position, direction, and angle - each having a designated glossary of terms. In addition to measuring the curvature of the neck, doctors employ the “Cobb Angle” to measure the degree of the curve. “Skeletal scoliosis” is described as a spinal curvature that has an angle of more than 10 degrees.


Treatment options for scoliosis differ greatly, depending on how far the curve progressed prior to diagnosis and how likely it is that the curve will worsen. Additionally, if a curve is in the upper spine, it will have bigger curve angles, and if a curve is detected in newborns, younger children, and females, the chances are larger that it will progress over time. If the curvature of the spine is under 20 degrees, it is mild and merely requires monitoring for any changes. If you had a minimal curve in your adolescence and are now experiencing increasing back pain with time, it might be time to schedule an appointment with a spine specialist at Crescent Regional Hospital.


Adult Back Brace

Because curved values between 25 and 40 degrees are commonly associated with the need of a brace. However, this treatment does not correct scoliosis or alter the curve. If you never wore a brace as a child, but your scoliosis has exacerbated your quality of life and hindered you from doing the things that you love to do, this might be an option before resorting to surgery.


An Adult with a Back Brace, What Will People Say?

Don’t fret! It is possible to still have a normal, active life, but getting acclimated to wearing a brace, especially as an adult, might take some time to get used to.Adults wear back braces sporadically to relieve pain and provide any additional support for a more active lifestyle. Braces for adults are also designed differently, mostly due to the on-and-off use of the brace; unlike in youths wearing their brace constantly to support them as they grow. Also, depending on the activities you perform on a regular basis which might require a brace, it might take a toll on your mental well-being, specifically your self-confidence. We care about your mental health, as well as your physical health, and we have a psychiatric nurse practitioner available to help with any rough patches.


What Does Surgery Entail?

Generally, doctors recommend surgery to straighten curves greater than 40 to 50 degrees or curves that continue to advance rapidly despite bracing. To rectify a curvature, the back vertebrae must be fused together. This is accomplished by joining the curve's vertebrae together using bone harvested from the pelvis. Metal hooks, screws, wires, or rods secure the bone in place. These metal implants remain in the body following surgery and contribute to the spine's added stability.

The surgery takes several hours and requires a few days in the hospital before you can return home. While at home until your doctor says otherwise, you will need to restrict yourself from much movement and exercise for at least 3-6 months. As your healing continues, minimal movement and no exercise will guarantee that the bones and vertebrae will have ample amount of time to fuse together, giving you a promising outlook for a bright, pain-free and procedure-free future. Conversely, the risk of too much movement during healing could jeopardize the growth and ability of the fused area to bend, but your spine specialist at Crescent will detail the risks associated with this delicate treatment, and outline any customized physical therapy that will help get you through the healing process.


IN CLOSING

If you or someone you know has scoliosis that has progressively inhibited their lifestyle and the activities needed on a day-to-day basis, please visit our website at crescentregionalhospital.com or call us today at 469-297-5471.

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