for Patients

Scoliosis

Overview

Scoliosis is an abnormal curving of the spine. While all spines curve slightly, those affected by scoliosis are bent into a "C" or "S" shape.

Scoliosis often appears in childhood, though it can present in infants, and it affects women more often than it affects men.  Scoliosis can also occur in adulthood, often as a result of degenerative disc disease.

Causes


There are three main types of scoliosis:

  • Idiopathic scoliosis: This is the most common type of scoliosis, and can present in patients as young as infants (called infantile scoliosis), and as old as 18 years old (called adolescent scoliosis). Idiopathic scoliosis most often occurs in children ages 10 to 18.
  • Congenital scoliosis: This type of scoliosis presents at birth and if often the effect of abnormal formation of rib and spine bones.
  • Neuromuscular scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is a side effect of diseases that affect the nervous system, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida and polio.

Symptoms

  • Uneven curve of the spine
  • Low back pain
  • Fatigue after standing for extended periods of time
  • Uneven hips and shoulders
  • Uneven curve of the spine

Diagnosis

Most often, a physician will be able to see the effects of scoliosis by examining the shape of the spine, with the patient either standing up or bending over. Scoliosis can also be diagnosed by X-Ray, MRI, CT scan, EMG, and bone scan.

Treatment

We have several methods of treating scoliosis, including:

  • Observation. In some cases, especially for children with idiopathic scoliosis, we may want to check progress of spine growth every six months to determine if further treatment is necessary.
  • Bracing. In other cases of idiopathic scoliosis patients who are still growing, a brace may be worn to prevent further curving.
  • Physical Therapy. In adults and adolescents who are finished growing, physical therapy can be used to strengthen core and back muscles, which will help alleviate pain associated with scoliosis. We can also treat the symptoms of other conditions that may be caused by scoliosis, such as sacroiliac dysfunction, stenosis, and pinched nerves.
  • Surgery. For patients whose spine is curved more than 45 degrees, or those in severe pain, a surgery called spinal fusion can stabilize and correct the shape of the spine.  Also, for adult degenerative scoliosis surgery may be necessary and can often improve alignment as well.