What Is Scoliosis?

Picture of a doctor showing a spine model to a patient.

Scoliosis is characterized by a sideways curvature (and often twisting) of the spine. Although scoliosis can affect people of all ages, it’s most often diagnosed during the adolescent years.

Scoliosis Causes

The cause of scoliosis is often unknown (this is referred to as “idiopathic scoliosis”). With that being said, scoliosis can sometimes be caused by:

  • Genetics
  • Spinal injuries and infections
  • Cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, and certain other neuromuscular conditions
  • Spinal birth defects and abnormalities
  • Surgery on the chest wall during infancy

Scoliosis Risk Factors

As was noted above, scoliosis is most commonly diagnosed during adolescence, which occurs between the ages of 10 and 19. While both sexes have approximately the same risk of developing scoliosis, the condition is more likely to progress in females. Individuals whose spines have already significantly curved are also at a higher risk of having their condition worsen over time.

Scoliosis Symptoms

Scoliosis can significantly affect the shape of your body. If you have scoliosis, you might notice that:

  • Your head is not centered over your pelvis
  • Your shoulders are uneven
  • One or both of your shoulder blades are sticking out
  • Your rib cage is uneven
  • One side of your rib cage sticks out farther than the other side
  • Your waist is uneven
  • One of your hips is higher than the other one
  • Your entire body is leaning toward one side

In some instances, the skin over the spine may change in appearance or texture (for example, with discoloration, dimpling, or patches of hair). Severe cases of scoliosis can lead to symptoms such as chronic back pain and difficulty breathing.

Scoliosis Treatment

Scoliosis treatment will vary depending on factors such as how far the condition has progressed, whether it’s causing any symptoms, where the curve is located, and whether the spine is still growing. The majority of childhood scoliosis cases are mild and don’t require treatment (although the child’s spine will continue to be monitored for changes).

When scoliosis treatment is necessary, it may involve wearing a brace to prevent the curve from getting worse. Although you should always follow any specific recommendations provided to you by a doctor, these braces can often be taken off when participating in physical activities, and children can generally stop using them completely once they’ve stopped growing taller. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to help straighten the spine and prevent further curving.

The Team to Choose for Scoliosis Treatment Near You

If you’re concerned that you or your child may have scoliosis, it’s important to promptly seek treatment, since spinal curvature can worsen over time. Fortunately, if you’re in Durham, NC, or the surrounding area, you can turn to North Carolina Orthopaedic Clinic. Our clinic has been treating scoliosis and a wide array of other spine conditions since 2003, during which time we’ve earned a reputation for providing specialized care and personalized service. Our fellowship-trained physicians would love the opportunity to provide you with the care you need. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.