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Understanding Scoliosis

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Understanding Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine to the side that also includes rotation, as defined by the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS).  This abnormal spine curvature can affect a person's overall torso alignment and posture.  While scoliosis can be discovered at any age, it is most prominent in adolescence and more common in women than men.  Scoliosis can range from mild to severe. The severity of the condition coupled with the patient's age and type of scoliosis and the guidelines established by the SRS will dictate the type of treatment that is used. 

Types of Scoliosis

Scoliosis can be broken down into five main types: 

Idiopathic Scoliosis - This is the most common form of scoliosis. Idiopathic means there is no specific identified cause, though there are many theories and strong evidence supporting heredity being a factor.  Additionally, in this subset is Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) which presents in children from 10-18 years old.

Congenital Scoliosis - This form of scoliosis is caused by a bone abnormality during a baby's development in the womb.

Neuromuscular Scoliosis - Caused by a medical condition of the nervous system where muscles around the spine are weakened, neuromuscular scoliosis is frequently seen in people with cerebral palsy, spina bifida or muscular dystrophy.

Degenerative Scoliosis- Characterized by the deterioration of the spine, degenerative scoliosis can be the result of a traumatic bone collapse, major back surgery or osteoporosis.

Early Onset Scoliosis- Early onset scoliosis can be divided into two categories, infantile (diagnosed birth to three) and juvenile (diagnosed 3+ to 10 years).

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Scoliosis isn't characterized by pain, but in some cases pain can be caused by the spine's abnormalities effecting or irritating surrounding joints and muscles.  Additionally, people with scoliosis could notice uneven shoulder or hip height, an uneven waistline or a general sense of imbalance between the two sides of the body.  A majority of scoliosis cases are detected during a physical exam or school screening.  An x-ray will officially diagnose scoliosis and determine the severity based upon the angle of curvature called a Cobb angle.  The Cobb angle must be 10° or higher to be considered scoliosis.

 How a Physical Therapist Can Help

Although there are a variety of treatment options including bracing and surgery, we're going to discuss the benefit of physical therapy to a patient with scoliosis.  It is important to remember that depending on the severity of the condition, each patient will receive a specialized plan of care so that they can achieve optimum results.  Your physical therapy may consist of the following treatments:  range-of-motion exercises, strength training, manual therapy, modalities (e.g. heat, ice, electrical stimulation), functional training and/or education.  For more detailed information on how a physical therapist can help you, visit the PHOENIX location nearest you.



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