THE STRAIGHT FACTS ABOUT SCOLIOSIS
This is a dialogue I have with my patients all too frequently. Most people can go a good portion of their lives never knowing they had developed a scoliosis in their spine. Scoliosis comes from an Ancient Greek word meaning “bending” and refers to a condition of the spine with an abnormal curvature. When viewed from the side, the normal spine should show a mild roundness in the upper back and show a degree of swayback (inward curvature) in the lower back.
When a person with a normal spine is viewed from the front or back, the spine should appear to be straight. The spine of a person with scoliosis when viewed from the front or back can take on a “C” or “S” shape.
Just how common is scoliosis? Every year, 2,000 new cases are reported in Hong Kong adolescents, which mean 1 in every 11 students has a scoliosis. According to government data, 2,500 out of the 40,000 newly diagnosed scoliosis sufferers need orthopedic follow-ups. It’s a pity to see children suffering from scoliosis. In my experience, children start showing symptoms of scoliosis when they are around 8 years old and some even younger, but because symptoms at the time might be difficult to see, they go unnoticed. This is one of the main reasons that people lose the best timing for treatment.
Although scoliosis affects boys, it is ten times more commonly found in girls. Some people are born with their spine offset in shape (congenital) and some have scoliosis secondary to a disease (neuromuscular), but for the majority of cases, there is no known cause (idiopathic). An estimated 65% of scoliosis cases are idiopathic, about 15% are congenital and about 10% are secondary to a neuromuscular disease.
Suffering from scoliosis is very unfortunate. Scoliosis can not only affect the spine but can also affect the ribs and pelvis. In severe cases, it can evolve into extreme deformities producing such symptoms as shortness of breath, digestive problems, acute or dull back pain, leg, hip, and knee pain, acute headaches, mood swings, and menstrual disturbances. In the long term, these cases can interfere with the heart, lungs, and other vital organs which can lead to breathing problems, chronic fatigue, and even heart failure.
Coincidentally, scoliosis causes not only physical pain but carries an emotional element as well. I see a great number of patients who lack self confidence due to a misshapen or unsymmetrical appearance. If the curves are 20 to 40 degrees, a person may need to wear a back brace, which is also very inconvenient to their daily life.
If the spinal curves become large, patients may feel severe back pain and muscle tension, which can lead to lethargy.
Here is a simple scoliosis check for you and your family. You can ask your family member to stand in front of you with their back facing you and lean forward with his or her feet together and bend 90 degrees at the waist. You can then easily view from this angle any asymmetry of the trunk or any abnormal spinal curvatures. If any irregularities are found, it is advised to consult a chiropractor or other health care provider for proper treatment. To help prevent scoliosis, it is crucial that children and adolescents keep a proper posture and have their spines checked on a regular basis. Since the majority of scoliosis cases are formed during the definitive years of development, it is most important that young children get their spines checked periodically for any early signs or symptoms regardless of whether or not they are experiencing pain.
Remember, prevention is the best cure!
Dr. Joe Steiner
Doctor of Chiropractic, Life University
College of Chiropractic