Scoliosis is a condition that affects nearly 3% of people in the United States. That's about 7 million individuals with abnormal spine curvature.
Scoliosis often develops in early adolescence, and women tend to be more prone to scoliosis that progresses to the point of treatment. Scoliosis can limit your activity level, cause pain and diminish self-esteem. Once scoliosis is detected, it should be closely monitored.
The spine surgeons at Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona offer expert diagnosis and observation in the event that your spinal curvature progresses and needs treatment.
To understand scoliosis, one must first know what a healthy spine looks like. When viewed sideways, a normal spine has both inward and outward curves. From behind, healthy spines are generally straight. Scoliosis describes any sideways curvature of the spine. The abnormal curve can happen at any level in the spine but is most common at chest level or in the low back. The spinal curve can develop in a few different ways, such as a single curve shaped like the letter C or two curves that appear more like the letter S.
In most children or teens, there are no noticeable symptoms associated with scoliosis. The spine's curvature generally causes no pain or very mild pain. Without testing, the condition may go unrecognized until it progresses significantly.
The Adam’s Forward Bend Test, where patients bend at the waist and touch their toes, is often used to diagnose scoliosis. An X-ray can also reveal spine curvature.
Other observable signs of scoliosis may include:
Scoliosis is a multifactorial disorder, which requires a multidisciplinary approach to treatment. At DISC, our first aim is to assess or confirm a scoliosis diagnosis before proceeding with treatment. Once verified, several variables must be considered to help us determine your treatment options:
Once these factors are assessed, there are three orthopedically approved options for combating scoliosis — observation, bracing or surgery.
The spinal curve in many young people is mild enough not to warrant treatment. However, if your orthopedic surgeon is concerned that the curve may worsen, patients will continue to be observed with periodic assessments.
Braces are an effective treatment option that can prevent a curve from progressing. This option is generally used for those who have not reached skeletal maturity. However, braces can also play a minor role in adult treatment. Braces should be checked regularly by your spine care doctor and worn at least 16 hours every day until growth stops.
A minimal number of scoliosis patients require surgery to correct the curve or address scoliosis-related issues. Some patients experience a pinched nerve or a narrowing of the foramen due to their scoliosis.
At DISC, our doctors are leaders in endoscopic spine surgery, which for some select patients can be used to decompress a pinched nerve.
If back bracing does not correct debilitating spinal curves, a spinal fusion has shown to be very successful in stopping the progression of spine curvature. Spinal fusion surgery is able to straighten the curved spine, significantly improving the patient's quality of life.