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Saturday, 22 June 2019 19:57

What is scoliosis?

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Scoliosis is a condition that causes a curvature of the spine, the classical look of a scoliotic spine is where it is curved from side to side forming an ‘S’ shape, compared to a straight line.  

There are two types of scoliosis one detected at birth which is called congenital scoliosis and the other is called idiopathic. The most common type of scoliosis is idiopathic which means the exact cause is unknown. Idiopathic scoliosis is generally picked up between the ages of 3-10, with most idiopathic scoliosis being rarely painful, since the angle of the curvature of the spine is small.

Children who present with mild scoliosis are monitored regularly with X-rays to make sure that the curvature isn't increasing, usually treatment is simply wearing a brace to prevent the curvature from worsening. 

Functional scoliosis is another subset of scoliosis that occurs during adulthood, often in response to an injury or asymmetrical activities such as playing tennis or baseball. The curvature of the spine develops due to one side of the body being over used and the other side under used, usually functional scoliosis can be corrected with appropriate treatment and exercise since it is muscular based. 

Signs and symptoms of scoliosis?

  • Uneven shoulders
  • Pain around areas of imbalances 
  • Bending to one side (listing)
  • One shoulder blade being more prominent than the other 

In severe cases of scoliosis it can cause drastic issues to our heart and lungs since it compresses our thoracic cage not allowing us to breathe properly and making harder for our heart to pump. 

Early detection of scoliosis is vital for a growing child, diagnoses in its early stages ensures a wider range of options for treatment and slowing the progression since children’s bones are not yet fully calcified, allowing a more conservative approach, instead of surgical ones. 

Treatments for scoliosis:

  • Medical intervention – Experts say that with congenital scoliosis best practice involves early surgical intervention to prevent the development of severe local deformities and secondary structural deformities that would require more extensive surgery later. Most of the surgery for congenital scoliosis happens during adolescence but there are newer techniques being developed that allows better spinal alignment at an earlier age. 
  • Physical therapy – Physiotherapy is used to treat milder forms of scoliosis, mainly idiopathic scoliosis to maintain aesthetic appearance and avoid surgery. The main role of physiotherapy in idiopathic or congenital scoliosis is to:
    • Maintain muscular endurance and strength 
    • Increase range of motion throughout not only thoracic spine, but shoulder, neck and hips
    • Improve or maintain respiratory function due to thoracic restrictions through education or breathing techniques 
    • Educate on ergonomical corrections and positions 
    • Build good neuromuscular control of the spine 

So far there is good evidence for an early intervention program for children, adolescents or adults that have mild scoliosis. The ‘wait and see approach’ for children is not recommended and getting professional help from a quailed movement specialist is always recommended.

At BPS we specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of all of the above mentioned forms of Scoliosis, if you have any questions or concerns please don't hesitate to give us a call on (02) 8544 1757