Scoliosis Brace: What You Need to Know
What Is Scoliosis?
The word “scoliosis” comes from the Greek words “skoldos”, which means curved or bent, and “klosios”, which means curve. The term describes a curvature of the spine (the vertebrae) that occurs when it curves forward at an angle rather than straight up and down. The most common type of scoliosis is called “curvaceous scoliosis”. Curvaceous scoliosis refers to a condition where the bones are not fused together but instead have loose bone fragments. There are other types of scoliosis such as kyphotic and ankylosing spondylitis (AS).
Scoliosis affects both men and women equally. The incidence of scoliosis varies greatly among different ethnic groups. However, the majority of people with scoliosis are Caucasian. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 1% of the population suffers from scoliosis.
How Does Scoliosis Affect My Life?
Scoliosis can affect your life in many ways including:
Your posture may become less upright due to pain or discomfort.
Your shoulder muscles may become overworked because they are constantly trying to keep your body upright.
You may feel tired or exhausted due to the extra burden on your muscles.
You may feel self-conscious about your body since it is not symmetrical.
You may have a limp or find yourself leaning to one side.
You may suffer from pain and discomfort.
You may find it more difficult to perform certain physical activities, such as carrying items or lifting heavy objects.
You may suffer from back pain.
What Are The Symptoms of Scoliosis?
Although scoliosis can occur in people of any age, it most commonly affects children between the ages of 10 and 16 and young adults between the ages of 15 and 30. However, it is not uncommon for older adults to suffer from scoliosis as well.
The most common signs and symptoms of scoliosis include:
A noticeable sideways curvature of the spine. In serious cases, the shoulders may appear uneven or one shoulder may appear higher than the other.
Shifting of the ribcage and pelvis.
A head that leans to one side. This is often called a “head tilt”.
Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath.
Lower back pain.
Difficulty in walking or movement. In more serious cases, the legs may become paralyzed or weak.
Protruding navel or “pooch” belly
What Are the Different Types of Scoliosis?
There are three main types of scoliosis:
This type of scoliosis is usually caused by a muscle weakness in the back. Typically, the condition gets worse over time. This may lead to complications such as a curvature that gets larger and larger or a curve in the spine that worsens until it reaches a stage where it compromises the lungs or other vital organs.
This type of scoliosis has no known cause. However, medical experts believe that this type of scoliosis is hereditary. It usually starts during puberty. The signs and symptoms of this type of scoliosis are the same as other types.
It can be very mild or very severe.
This type of scoliosis is caused by a neurological condition or disease. It is fairly rare and the signs and symptoms of it are similar to idiopathic scoliosis. However, the signs and symptoms of this type of scoliosis usually appear earlier and can include:
A loss of spinal reflexes.
Numbness in the legs.
How Is Scoliosis Diagnosed?
In order to determine if you have scoliosis, your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history and perform a physical examination. They will also ask you to remove any upper body clothing such as a jacket or sweater.
During the physical examination, your doctor will look for a sideways curvature of your spine. They will also check for any signs of respiratory problems and listen to your heart with a stethoscope.
In order to get a more accurate measurement of the severity of the curve in your spine, your doctor may X-ray your torso. They may also take an MRI or CT scan for further examination.
What Are the Treatment Options for Scoliosis?
Treatment for scoliosis is determined by the type of scoliosis you have and the severity of it. Treatment options include:
In some cases, doctors may decide that observation is the best option. In these cases, they will continue to monitor your condition using regular X-rays and scans. If your condition worsens, your doctor may decide to try a different treatment option.
Bracing is typically only offered to patients who are between the ages of 10 and 15. The goal of bracing is to stop the spine from growing in such a manner that it creates a curve. The brace is worn on a daily basis, even while sleeping.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the curve in your spine. The goal of the surgery is to remove a portion of the vertebrae and fuse them together. This prevents the spine from continuing to grow in a curved fashion. It is typically only recommended for patients who are between the ages of 12 and 15.
What Challenges Can Be Associated With Scoliosis?
Scoliosis can cause a number of complications. These complications can be very serious and even life-threatening in severe cases. Complications include:
Loss of reflexes in the legs.
Loss of bowel or bladder control.
Inability to walk.
Loss of sexual function.
These complications can become more likely if the scoliosis worsens over time or grows to a very serious degree. If your scoliosis does cause any of these complications, you will need to see a doctor immediately in order to prevent the condition from worsening.
Do I Need to Worry About My Scoliosis Getting Worse?
The short answer to this question is yes. It is very important that you remain aware of the fact that your condition can worsen at any time. If you do experience any of the more serious side effects, you will need to seek medical attention immediately in order to prevent permanent damage.
Does Scoliosis Go Away on Its Own?
Scoliosis does not go away on its own. In fact, it is a condition that you will have to learn to manage as you go through life. In some cases, scoliosis can actually worsen with age. It is very important that you remain informed and work with your doctor to control the condition and prevent it from worsening as much as possible.
Scoliosis in Children
Scoliosis is fairly common in children. This is because children experience rapid growth spurts at various times in their lives. During these growth spurts, the spine may experience a natural curve in order to accommodate this growth. This natural curve is known as a “dowager’s hump.” In some rare cases, this natural curve causes a mild scoliosis.
In most cases, scoliosis in children is detected early enough that bracing and other treatments can be successful in keeping the condition from becoming worse. Most children outgrow their mild scoliosis by the time that they become adults.
Scoliosis in Adults
Scoliosis in adults is a little different than scoliosis in children. In most cases, the scoliosis experienced by adults is caused by some other underlying medical condition. This may include osteoporosis, ankylosing spondylitis, or degenerative disc disease. In some cases, the cause of the scoliosis is unknown.
In any case, it is recommended that you see your doctor if you are an adult and have been diagnosed with scoliosis. In some cases, the condition can be treated and managed fairly easily. In other cases, surgery may be necessary in order to treat the condition.
Living With Scoliosis
Learning to live with scoliosis is very different for every patient. The severity of the condition, your age, and various other factors all play a role in determining how you can live with the condition.
In most cases, patients who have been diagnosed with scoliosis are given a brace to wear at all times. The purpose of this brace is to prevent the spine from curving too much in either direction. In some cases, a custom brace may be created for you in order to prevent the spine from curving as much.
Other patients are able to treat their condition with exercise and other non-invasive methods. Again, your doctor will be able to give you advice on the best way to manage your condition based on your specific diagnosis.