Thursday, March 29, 2018

Understanding Scoliosis

Scoliosis is defined as an abnormal curvature of the spinal column. More often than not, doctors detect the abnormality during adolescence. Scoliosis has been around since the ancient times. It was, in fact, Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, who discovered the condition and looked for a cure.

At least seven million Americans develop scoliosis between the ages of 10 to 15 and it's more prevalent among young girls. Nearly half a million people visit the doctor each year for problems linked to scoliosis and at least 29,000 patients per year choose to undergo surgery to correct the problem.

Despite how long this health issue has existed, doctors still cannot determine the exact reason why this abnormality develops or if it can be fully prevented.

Classifications of Scoliosis

Scoliosis is classified into two types:
  • Idiopathic scoliosis develops as a childhood condition. Experts are still exploring if this might have ties to genetics.
  • Degenerative scoliosis arises due to disc degeneration of the spine. Experts attribute this to aging.
Both types of scoliosis progress over the years and may become physically noticeable when the spine curves to about 30 to 40 degrees. The rounder the curve, the more health problems arise.

Symptoms of Scoliosis

Children with idiopathic scoliosis won’t normally complain of any problems. Their spine might have an unusual curve, but this won’t affect their physical activities at this point. When they get older and as the curvature becomes more obvious, the pain and discomfort can start manifesting. It’s the same case for people with degenerative scoliosis.

The most common signs and symptoms associated with scoliosis include:

•    Recurring or persistent pain in the back, neck, and shoulders as well as the buttocks near the lower back
•    Uneven length of the shoulders, hips, arms, and legs
•    Clothes might not fit snugly
•    Breathing and cardiac problems, especially for people with about 80 degrees curvature
•    Prominence of the ribs
•    Constipation when the curvature impacts the location of intestines
•    Pitch-forward posture
•    Inability to stand up straight
•    Weakening of the legs and spinal nerve irritation, in some cases

Treating and Managing Scoliosis

The treatment and management of scoliosis are usually individualized since each case is different from one patient to another. Doctors have to assess properly the spine's curvature, its location, growth, and progression.

It is essential to manage the pain and discomfort that comes with the disease as these can affect your daily life. Aside from taking pain relievers, you can apply a warm compress on your back or neck as the heat can help relax your muscles. You can also use portable pain management devices such as a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit which releases low-voltage current to relieve pain from muscle spasms.

Doctors can recommend bracing or spinal surgery. For adults with scoliosis, doctors usually aim to reduce pressure on the nerves and stop the progression of the curvature through a fusion procedure.

People with mild scoliosis, regardless of age, normally do not need treatment but might be required to visit the doctor two to three times a year for monitoring and check-up. X-rays might be necessary every five years as well.

A visit to the doctor might be needed as soon as possible if:
  • The curvature is quite noticeable
  • The posture is uneven and unbalanced
  • There's a recommendation following a screening from the school
  • The back pain won't go away
If detected early, scoliosis can be a manageable and livable condition. Children with body braces can still go about their lives normally and participate in regular activities like any other kid.

Debunking Common Scoliosis Myths 

For some patients, scoliosis does not prevent them from doing sports or dance. In fact, there's even a study that showed dance therapy had positive effects for scoliosis patients. Plenty of ballerinas and professional athletes who have scoliosis have also managed to thrive in their chosen profession despite the abnormality on their spine.

Regular exercises and physiotherapy are always recommended as these will help ease the pain and improve the flexibility of the back. It won't, however, decrease the size of the curvature or slow down its progression.

Carrying heavy bags does not cause scoliosis, even with kids who have to fill their school bags with books. It can, however, aggravate back problems in adults, so avoid this as much as possible.

Having scoliosis won't get in the way of conceiving a baby or giving birth. You might, however, want to advise the doctors, nurses, and midwives during labor so that they can help lessen your discomfort during the delivery, especially if you want to get an epidural.

There's a little chance that a spinal surgery for scoliosis will result in paralysis. Surgery, however, is only recommended if the curvature is more than 40 degrees.

This is a guest blog entry.

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