Scoliosis: Fear not, the deformity of the spine can be corrected

Scoliosis can be successfully treated, especially when diagnosed early. Photo: Albina Gavrilovic / iStock

Scoliosis is a condition characterized by an abnormal curvature of the spine, which often appears as an 'S' or 'C' shape when viewed from the back. While the idea of a spinal deformity may cause fear and concern, it's important to note that scoliosis can be successfully treated, especially when diagnosed early.

Understanding Scoliosis

Scoliosis can develop in people of all ages, but it most commonly appears during adolescence. The causes of scoliosis can be broadly categorized into two types: structural and non-structural. Structural scoliosis is caused by underlying anatomical abnormalities, such as uneven leg lengths, muscular imbalances, or birth defects. Non-structural scoliosis, on the other hand, is reversible and often occurs due to temporary factors like muscle spasms, inflammation, or postural changes.

Symptoms of Scoliosis

The early stages of scoliosis may not exhibit noticeable symptoms, which makes regular screenings crucial, especially for children and adolescents. However, as the curvature progresses, individuals may experience symptoms such as:

» Uneven shoulder heights

» Asymmetrical waistline or hips

» A visibly tilted or rotated spine

» Back pain or discomfort

» Fatigue or limited endurance during physical activities

Diagnosing Scoliosis

Diagnosing scoliosis involves a comprehensive evaluation of an individual's medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests. During a physical examination, a healthcare professional will assess the spine's curvature, range of motion, and any visible asymmetries. If scoliosis is suspected, an X-ray or advanced imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be recommended to determine the severity and type of scoliosis.

Treatment Options for Scoliosis

The treatment approach for scoliosis depends on factors such as the severity of the curvature, the individual's age, and skeletal maturity. Here are some common treatment options:

Observation: If the curvature is mild, regular check-ups and monitoring may be recommended to observe any progression.

Bracing: For moderate scoliosis, a brace may be prescribed to prevent further curvature progression, particularly during the adolescent growth spurt.

Physical Therapy and Exercise: Specially designed exercises and physical therapy techniques can help improve posture, strengthen muscles, and enhance flexibility.

Surgical Intervention: Severe cases of scoliosis may require surgical intervention. The most common surgical procedure, called spinal fusion, aims to straighten the spine using metal rods, hooks, screws, or bone grafts.

Scoliosis may be a cause for concern, but it's important to remember that early detection, appropriate diagnosis, and timely intervention can lead to successful outcomes. With a range of treatment options available, including observation, bracing, physical therapy, and surgery, individuals with scoliosis can find relief from symptoms and achieve better spinal alignment. If you or a loved one suspect scoliosis, consult with a healthcare professional to explore the best course of action and embark on a path toward correction and improved quality of life.

(Dr. Vinod V. Rajan is HOD & Senior Consultant, Centre For Bone, Joint & Spine, Meitra Hospital, Kozhikode)

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