It’s estimated that about 9 million Americans have a condition known as scoliosis, which is an abnormal sideways spinal curvature. Scoliosis is often manageable with physical therapy or bracing and treatable with surgery if the curvature is severe. If you’re living with scoliosis, it can help to have a better understanding of what might cause it and how it’s classified, which is what we’re going to focus on today.
Between 80 and 85 percent of all cases of scoliosis are classed as “idiopathic,” meaning there’s no specific known cause. There’s some evidence suggesting it runs in families, meaning some people may have a genetic predisposition for developing the condition, although this has yet to be confirmed. Idiopathic scoliosis is the type often seen in children, and it tends to affect girls more often than boys.
Congenital scoliosis is so named because it develops prior to birth. This type of abnormal spinal curvature may occur if certain spinal segments fail to develop correctly. It’s also possible for spinal bones to fail to fully fuse together during fetal development. The entire spine can be affected, or the curvature could be limited to one segment of the spine.
Neuromuscular scoliosis occurs when muscles that support the spine are affected enough to contribute to an abnormal curvature. This type of scoliosis is associated with neuromuscular issues such as muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy. Neuromuscular scoliosis can also be related to:
• A spinal cord injury
• A benign or malignant spinal tumor
• A previous instance of polio
Natural changes in the spine or wear and tear accelerated by conditions such as arthritis may cause certain areas of the backbone to shift excessively to the right or left. Degenerative scoliosis could also be related to age-related spinal disc wear (degenerative disc disease) or diseases such as osteoporosis that affect bone density. Due to the nature of this type of scoliosis, it’s most likely to occur later in life. Some people with scoliosis find relief after having spinal fusion surgery. Los Angeles patients should consult with experienced spine specialists to review the treatment options that suit their unique circumstances best.
Scoliosis is sometimes caused by rare conditions that affect the spine enough to throw off its natural alignment. For instance, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a group of rare inherited connective tissue disorders that affect collagen formation. Over time, the lack of sufficient collagen could cause spinal discs to shift enough to change the spine’s curvature. Marfan syndrome is another rare connective tissue condition that can make joints too flexible, sometimes leading to spinal abnormalities.
The sooner any type of scoliosis is diagnosed, the more likely a person is to benefit from initial treatment and symptom management efforts. If the curvature isn’t severe, the only treatment recommended may be periodic monitoring and routine image tests. Bracing is sometimes suggested as well if the condition is diagnosed while the spine is still developing. However, older adults with scoliosis may also benefit from physical therapy and bracing if the spine is still stable.
If you’re experiencing complications from scoliosis or you have severe or prolonged pain in your back or neck, see your doctor or a Los Angeles spine surgeon right away. At The Spine Institute, our pioneering physicians lead the spinal health industry, and we have decades of experience with every aspect of back pain and how to alleviate it. To schedule a consultation, call one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757.