Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine that is often diagnosed in childhood. While most cases of scoliosis are mild and need very little or no treatment, some are more severe and require special therapies to correct. The therapy and treatment to correct scoliosis depend on the severity of the curve and other risk factors involved, such as the patient’s age, potential harm to organs, and the patient’s lifestyle.
What causes scoliosis?
While doctors aren’t certain what causes the most common types of scoliosis, it seems that genetic factors are involved, as it typically runs in families. Less common types—which are often more severe—are caused by birth defects, injuries or infections, or neuromuscular conditions like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or spina bifida. It has also been noted that girls tend to have a much higher chance of severe progression than boys.
How is scoliosis treated?
Scoliosis treatment depends on a few factors:
- Patient’s sex: since female teens tend to have a higher chance of progression, their treatment is often more rigorous
- The severity of the curve: a more severe curve will take longer to correct
- Curve pattern: an S-shaped curve tends to worsen over time much faster than a c-shaped curve
- Location of the curve: curves located in the thoracic area of the back progress more quickly than in cervical or lumbar regions
- Maturity: treatment is most effective when the child is still growing and their bones have not matured
The two most common scoliosis treatments are bracing and surgery. Some patients also try more natural interventions like chiropractic care and dietary supplements, but these are not proven to be effective in stopping or reversing progression. Many patients also join gyms or sports academies for physical therapy, to strengthen their muscles and keep their bodies healthy and active.
While it has recently been determined that wearing a back brack won’t correct or reverse scoliosis progression, it can help the spinal curvature from worsening in children. The most common type of brace called a Wilmington or Boston brace depending on how it fastens, is made of hard plastic on the outside, with contouring foam on the inside to hold an s-shaped spine in a mostly-straight position day and night. For c-shaped curves, a Charleston brace is used to overcorrect the lower spine and prevent forward progression at night.
Activity while wearing a back brace does not usually need to be restricted, and the brace can be removed to shower or do more rigorous activities. The more hours a brace is worn, the more effective it becomes in stopping forward progression. In some cases, consistent bracing is enough to prevent surgery.
Because bracing is only used to stop or slow the progression of scoliosis, some more severe cases will require surgery. This type of surgery, known as spinal fusion surgery, fuses two or more vertebrae together so that the spine cannot bend and progression will stop. Metal rods are then placed along the spine to hold it in place so it can heal properly. If the patient is still growing, a rod that can be adjusted in length and grow with the child.
Many scoliosis patients who receive treatment early in life and have less severe cases will go on to live normal lives. However, some scoliosis patients may experience chronic back pain or might have neuromuscular conditions that they will likely treat for the rest of their lives. Treatment for chronic back pain could include physical therapy, CBD treatment, or pain medication. Many patients who receive pain medications find it easier to get online prescription medications both to save trips to the pharmacy and money on their pain management.
Scoliosis, while fairly common, varies from person to person because there is still so much that doctors are unsure of. As doctors continue to research this condition, treatment plans can be tailored to fit the specific patient to make sure their recovery goes as smoothly as possible.