Scoliosis: What is it?
Did you know that scoliosis affects around 3% of Australia’s population? That is over 700,000 people! Early detection is key, so read on to find out more!
What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis (pronounced sko-lee-o-sis) is an abnormal curvature of the spine. The rotation of the spine often presents as an ‘S’ or ‘C’ shape, if you are looking at someone’s back. We do have 3 normal spinal curves — at the neck, upper back and lower back, when viewing the spine from the side. But, when looking at the back from behind, the spine should appear straight from the neck to the pelvis.
Most cases of scoliosis appear in children and adolescents, especially in females. Diagnoses are commonly idiopathic — meaning the cause is unknown. It usually arises in periods of growth, averaging 10-13 years old for girls or 12-14 years old for boys. Although uncommon, adult scoliosis can occur if it wasn’t diagnosed in adolescence or if a degenerative bone condition develops. It’s simply referred to as ‘adult scoliosis’ because the spine is fully developed.
Left untreated, scoliosis can result in back pain, muscle spasms and pinched nerves. In severe cases it may increase pressure on your lungs and affect breathing.
Signs to look out for…
Early intervention is crucial for treating scoliosis within children and adolescents. With correct diagnosis, monitoring and intervention (if necessary), most people are not adversely affected as they grow into adulthood.
Scoliosis Australia says “the best way to detect scoliosis is to look out for it!”. So, we have listed some of these key signs or symptoms to be aware of:
- Sideways curvature of spine — ‘S’ or ‘C’ shape when viewing from the back.
- Clothes hang unevenly
- Head not centred on the body
- One shoulder blade higher or more prominent
- One hip higher or more prominent
- Unusual gap between your arms and torso
If you notice a symptom listed above, then it’s best to seek help right away — that’s why we are here!
Depending on your age and how severe your curve is, we can use various interventions to help.
Observation: For mild cases (usually less than 20 degrees of curvature), monitoring via X-rays every 4-6 months is usually adequate for children and adolescents. And we may help through soft tissue (massage), adjustments or exercise prescription if we believe it to be beneficial to the individual case.
Chiropractic care: If scoliosis goes beyond 20 degrees of curvature (but less than 40), as chiropractors we help prevent progression, improve posture and release muscle tension. Spinal adjustments, stretches and massage may be used depending on the individual. This also helps mitigate pain in adults. Strengthening muscles with specific scoliosis exercises may also be recommended. We take a holistic approach— to not only improve the scoliosis but your overall well-being.
Bracing: If a child has not reached full skeletal growth, a brace may be recommended to prevent scoliosis progression and surgery. A combination of bracing and chiropractic care is common.
Surgery: For people with a severe case (typically over 40 degrees), referral to an orthopaedic surgeon may be necessary.
We treat every case individually and will recommend the most appropriate treatment for YOU. Don’t hesitate to call us on (02) 9523 9940 if you are concerned about scoliosis, and we will be happy to help!