Scoliosis means curvature of the spine as it is commonly applied. It is a genetic condition that results in an unnatural curve of the spinal column that can be anywhere from barely discernible to severe.
Today, the progression and severity of scoliosis can often be predicted with some degree of accuracy by genetic testing. With genetic causes, this discovery has been very advantageous to doctors and specialists in being able to predict when and how to proceed with treatment.
The vast majority of scoliosis cases are referred to as idiopathic, which means they are undetermined, or unknown. That doesn’t mean it is not known if it is genetic. It means that researchers cannot determine what causes the condition that is found to be genetically incurred.
None of this means that all cases are genetic. There are numerous other root causes that can be identified in about 20 – 25% of cases.
There may be congenital reasons where the bones do not form correctly resulting in the spine growing at an unnatural angle. It can be caused by tumors pressing against the spine causing it to grow at a disadvantageous angle. These and other physical conditions that affect the spine may cause scoliosis.
Answering the question “what is scoliosis” is not difficult. It is simply unnatural curvature of the spine. Answering what its variations are is more complicated.
As to types of scoliosis, they are primarily identified by the direction and/or type of the spinal curvature.
Levonconvex Scoliosis is a spinal curve to the left, such as in the picture. It can take place in the thoracic or upper back, and the lumbar or lower back region. In the thoracic area it is of special concern for monitoring closely because of the proximity of the spinal cord to the heart and lungs. This type is often known as the single term “levoscoliosis”.
Dextroconvex Scoliosis: This type scoliosis is characterized by an “S” shaped curve in the spine rather than the more common “C” shape. Dextroconvex scoliosis is the type most often associated with severity, pain and debilitating characteristics.
There are special measures for this type condition that involves a combination of hydration, diet, correct posture, and exercise. With other types of scoliosis that have not progressed dramatically, some self treatment is often harmless and beneficial.
That said, there is potentially seriously debilitating potential of the dextroconvex version. Consequently it is essential to consult with a physician before any self treatment, exercise or physical therapy is pursued.
In past centuries there were few treatment options for available and this condition would progress without hindrance. Now from observation, braces, exercise and fusion surgery for severe cases, in many cases, relief and correction can be achieved.
The good news is that scoliosis is usually of a degree that it only requires observation, implementing strength and flexibility exercises.
In a small number of scoliosis cases, patients require a brace. This is generally applied during their childhood years, which is when scoliosis progresses and worsens. The brace, along with other treatment inhibits that worsening of the condition. It allows the spine to naturally correct during growth.
A very small percentage of scoliosis patients have curvature so severe that spinal fusion surgery is required. With modern surgical techniques the most severe portion of the spine can be isolated, and treated for straightening.
The intent and statistical result of this is the rest of the spine naturally adjusting as the child grows.
The good results in patients are due in part to doctors being able to predict which level of treatment will be necessary. As stated above, this is from genetic testing results that give them a predictive path to follow.
Another promising development in the treatment of scoliosis is fusionless spinal surgery. This is becoming available for patients in whom the condition is discovered early. In qualified patients the surgery is showing promise in both straightening and keeping the natural flexibility of the spinal column.
Researchers are also hopeful that genetic engineering may be useful for deterring spinal stenosis in the future.
This summarizes scoliosis and its various diagnosis and evaluation. Much more extensive information can be found online and in libraries. However, if you suspect this condition in your children or yourself, be sure to consult with a physician for a full evaluation.