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Scoliosis ranges in severity.

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine in which the spine grows sideways. While some cases can be caused by conditions like muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy, most cases of scoliosis have an unknown cause. It can run in families, however. The condition is most common in children who are about to have their growth spurt.

In some cases, the abnormal curve is barely noticeable; in others, it is so severe that it hampers the lungs’ function by reducing the space in the chest. Fortunately, most cases of scoliosis are mild. While both boys and girls are equally likely to develop the milder forms of scoliosis, girls are more prone to the more severe forms.

How is Scoliosis Diagnosed?

The doctor will perform a physical examination. The “Adam’s forward bend test” is the standard test for scoliosis. The doctor will ask the patient to stand with their knees straight and feet together and then have them bend forward with their arms hanging down. The position will make it easier for the doctor to spot any deformities in the patient’s spine.

The doctor will also have the patient stand straight and check to make sure that the shoulders and hips are level. They will also check the head’s position in relation to their hips.

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The doctor will also order X-rays to determine the severity of the curve. Generally speaking, if the curve is over 25 degrees, the doctor will recommend treatment.

How is Scoliosis Treated?

Treatment will depend on the location and severity of the curvature. The doctor will also consider the child’s age, for scoliosis generally does not get any worse after a patient has stopped growing. Thus, a patient in their late teens with a mild case will probably not need treatment.

Generally speaking, if the patient has a mild case of scoliosis and/or is in their late teens, the doctor will recommend nothing more than monitoring to see how their condition progresses.

If the patient has a curvature between 25 and 45 degrees, the doctor will recommend a brace of some type. While the brace won’t correct the curve, it will keep it from getting worse and thus hopefully keep the patient from needing surgery.

If the patient’s curve is over 45 degrees, the doctor will recommend a surgery called “spinal fusion.” The surgeon will realign the vertebrae and insert bone grafts between the spaces. The bones will eventually grow together, much like a healing broken bone. The surgeon will also insert metal rods to hold the bones together. Most patients can leave the hospital within a week after the surgery and return to school and most normal activities within a month.

What is Degenerative Scoliosis?

Degenerative scoliosis is a condition that affects adults; most patients are over 50 years old. It is caused by arthritis affecting the spine. Bone spurs and weakened ligaments and other soft tissues cause the spine to develop an abnormal curve. Patients fall into two categories: people who had scoliosis as a child, and people who did not.