Scoliosis affects between 6 and 9 million Americans.
Spinal abnormalities are no trivial matter. The abnormal curve in the spine, which we call scoliosis, most commonly affects children and adolescents, bringing pain and discomfort, as well as social anxiety. Many cases are manageable and treated with bracing so that the curvature doesn’t worsen.
In more serious scenarios, however, scoliosis surgery may be required. This generally occurs when there’s a fear of the curve progressing as the patient grows, which can cause lung issues due to a lack of space in the chest.
Only 0.1% of scoliosis patients require surgery, so how do you know when you or your child are a candidate? In this post, we’ll help you understand this condition on a deeper level to help you understand scoliosis treatment and when surgical intervention may be necessary.
Living with scoliosis can be extremely difficult, so keep reading and learn what you need to do to improve this condition.
What Is Scoliosis?
Curves in your spine are completely normal in your cervical, lumbar, thoracic, and sacral spine. What’s not normal is a sideways curve in the spine to the left or right - this is scoliosis.
As mentioned, scoliosis mostly occurs in the thoracic spine of children, but there’s still some mystery about why this happens. It can also occur in people with conditions like cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy.
As the child grows, it’s possible for the spinal curve to worsen, which is why even mild cases are monitored closely with routine X-ray scans. Some children have to wear braces to prevent their scoliosis from getting worse, while others end up having to get surgery.
Signs of Scoliosis
Scoliosis isn’t difficult to detect in children. Some of the telltale signs include uneven shoulders, uneven waist, protruding ribcage on one side, hip raised up on one side, shoulder blade more prominent on one side, and a protruding back when bent over.
There may also be changes in skin texture at the spot where the spine is curved. You may find discoloration, dimples, or patches of hair.
Some of these physical changes occur very gradually, so the child won’t feel discomfort at first. This makes it tricky to detect, but the signs are more obvious to others, so it’s important to make note of changes as you start noticing them.
Symptoms of more serious scoliosis include back pain, leg pain, leg numbness, difficulty breathing, and bladder/bowel dysfunction. For adults, serious scoliosis may come with height loss as well.
What If You Don’t Get Treatment?
It’s important to seek scoliosis treatment as soon as you detect any of the above symptoms. Those with milder cases may only ever experience back pain and muscle fatigue. When the spinal curve is more than 50 degrees in the thoracic region and 40 degrees in the lumbar region is when serious problems start to arise.
If you fail to get treatment as your condition worsens, you could end up dealing with spinal instability. This increases the risk of serious back problems like herniated disks and spondylolisthesis.
Furthermore, you could end up with a humpback and a limp, sciatica, nerve damage, difficulty walking, difficulty sitting, and the aforementioned heart and lung issues. The bottom line is, when spotted early, you can manage scoliosis symptoms.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Doctors typically monitor children with minor scoliosis. They’ll only treat the condition if it worsens with growth. If it’s clear through the X-rays that the condition is progressing, chiropractic treatment and bracing will be the first step.
At Gold Coast Chiropractic, we’ve helped hundreds of scoliosis patients correct their conditions and avoid surgery. Each case is unique, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis so you can figure out the best treatment plan.
We always work with leading scoliosis experts to determine the best course of action in each case. If possible, we’ll use chiropractic methods, such as spinal adjustments and flexion distraction to help alleviate the strain on your disks.
Others may benefit from a spinal brace. A brace won’t cure scoliosis, but it will prevent the curve from getting worse. These braces are contoured to the body so that they’re almost invisible beneath your clothes.
Most braces are worn constantly throughout the day. The longer you wear the brace for, the more effective it is in preventing the curve from worsening. Once the child has stopped growing, they can stop wearing their brace.
It’s always preferable to treat scoliosis with these non-invasive methods. With spinal braces and chiropractic care, the patient can live a normal pain-free life. That said, if the curve keeps getting worse, surgery may be the only answer.
When Scoliosis Surgery Is Needed
With more aggressive scoliosis cases, a doctor may recommend surgery to straighten out the curve or prevent it from getting worse. There are a few different types of surgery to consider.
This procedure involves connecting two (or more) vertebrae so that they don’t move independently. Pieces of bone are placed between the vertebrae, then rods, hooks, and screws hold the spine in place while the bone fuses with your vertebrae.
In more serious cases, an expanding rod is inserted beside the spine. Every 3-6 months, the rod is adjusted to keep the spine straight as the child grows.
Using tiny incisions, screws are placed along the spinal curve and a strong cord is threaded through them. As the cord tightens, the spine straightens and continues straightening as the child grows.
Finding the Best Scoliosis Treatment
Your doctor should only suggest scoliosis surgery if the condition is rapidly progressing. It’s important to get proper screening and exhaust all other treatment possibilities before resorting to surgery. Most of the time, in mild and moderate cases, chiropractic treatment and braces can do the job.
If you’ve noticed your child exhibiting some of the symptoms we discussed above, it might be time to have them screened. At Gold Coast Chiropractic, we want to help you treat your or your child’s scoliosis so you can avoid invasive surgery. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.