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Scoliosis: What Causes An Abnormal Spinal Curvature?

Scoliosis: What Causes An Abnormal Spinal Curvature?
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Scoliosis

spinal curvature


Scoliosis is characterized by an abnormal curvature of the spine. When viewed head-on, a healthy spine appears straight, whereas a spine with scoliosis appears as either an “S” or “C” shape. Scoliosis can be mild, moderate, or severe. The degree of severity is determined through a measurement of the curvature. A curvature measuring under 20 is considered mild scoliosis. Curvatures measured over 40 degrees are considered severe scoliosis. The condition is relatively common, being found in about 3% of the population. It is found more often in females than males.

What Causes Scoliosis?

Some cases of scoliosis are thought to be hereditary, with patients having family members who also have the condition. In many instances, the exact cause of scoliosis is unknown, but studies show that it can be linked to the following underlying causes:

  • Spina bifidia
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
  • Chiari Malformation
  • Syringomyelia
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Marfan syndrome
  • Amniotic band syndrome
  • Neurofibromatosis

Types of Scoliosis

Thoracic Curve

This type of scoliosis is characterized by a spinal curvature that occurs in the thoracic (upper/middle) portion of the spine.

Thoracolumbar Curve

This type of scoliosis is characterized by a spinal curvature that occurs in the lower thoracic portion of the spine and extends into the lumbar (lower) portion of the spine.

Lumbar Curve

This type of scoliosis is characterized by a spinal curvature that occurs entirely in the lumbar portion of the spine.

Double Major or Combined Curve

This type of scoliosis is characterized by a spinal curvature that occurs in two areas of the spine, with a curve in the thoracic and lumbar portions of the spine curving in opposite directions.

spinal curvature

Scoliosis Symptoms

  • Back pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Tailbone pain
  • Limited mobility
  • Painful menstruation
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Cardiac problems
  • Uneven musculature on one side of the spine
  • Uneven hips, arms or leg length
  • Rib prominence
  • Slow nerve action

Diagnosing Scoliosis

Scoliosis is most often diagnosed during childhood or early adulthood. It may be found inadvertently through a physical exam and can be confirmed with a spinal x-ray.

Treating Scoliosis

Mild cases of scoliosis typically require no treatment and may even correct themselves as the individual grows. Moderate to severe cases often require medical intervention. Initial treatment may involve the patient wearing a back brace, which will encourage the spine to straighten out as the patient grows. If a back brace cannot correct the curvature of the spine, surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgery to correct scoliosis involves implementing titanium screws and rods that fuse the spine into a straighter position.

spinal curvature

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