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Can Scoliosis Occur Later in Life?

Scoliosis is a condition where the spine curves to the left or right. It can be slight or severe, and there may or may not be a defined reason for developing the condition. Most of the time, scoliosis develops around the time of puberty. Adolescent girls get scoliosis more than boys, and children more than adults. In rare cases, scoliosis can also develop during adulthood.

Your spine has natural curves, like an S, that gently support your body and its movement. When a person has scoliosis, a sideways curvature is present. Some of the symptoms of scoliosis include pain, tingling in the extremities, and noticeable abnormalities in posture (like uneven shoulders or stooping). Nobody knows why people develop scoliosis, but there is some evidence of hereditary factors. 

There are two types of scoliosis, idiopathic and degenerative. Idiopathic scoliosis usually develops in and is diagnosed in young adolescents. Idiopathic scoliosis may not be diagnosed until adulthood, either because there may have been no symptoms for many years, or the curvature has become more pronounced.

Degenerative scoliosis is more likely to occur in adults. Just like many orthopedic conditions faced by older adults, degenerative scoliosis is preceded by wearing down of the cartilage between the bones of the spine. The spinal bones collapse against each other and can deviate to the side. Osteoarthritis of the spine results in scoliosis for some people. Some patients will also have osteoporosis also add the possible complication of a fracture due to the pressure on the spinal curvature. But just as idiopathic scoliosis may not cause any symptoms or discomfort, the same is true for degenerative scoliosis. There is no need for treatment if it is not causing the patient any issues with pain or mobility. Of course, a patient is unlikely to seek treatment and be diagnosed if there are no troubling symptoms.

Some possible reasons for the increase in cases of adult scoliosis are that people are living longer, and more active lives. Wear and tear of the cartilage in the back happens more quickly when there is more movement, such as from running, playing sports, or just walking. People also are more likely to seek out help for back pain than they may have been in the past. As the field of orthopedic medicine develops and specialists are more widely available, people increasingly know where to go with their back pain and they have more trust in orthopedic physicians who can help.

The severity of scoliosis is measured in degrees that the spine moves away from the center. If the curve is less than 40 degrees, most of the time conservative methods of treatment are effective in reducing or eliminating symptoms and preventing further curvature. Conservative treatments may include medication, physical therapy, or braces to provide stability and decrease pain. Surgical correction is a possible treatment for severe cases of scoliosis. Spinal surgery carries a significant risk of complications, so it is not normally considered unless there is severe pain or deformity. Each case is unique, so the surgery is performed with the goal of preventing further pain and damage in addition to correcting the abnormalities. 

Patients in the Colorado Springs area who have sports injuries or any orthopedic injury trust the Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence to provide the best care. If you have an orthopedic injury or condition, call (719) 623-1050 for an appointment today.

Scoliosis in School-Age Children

Scoliosis refers to the development of an abnormal curve or twist in the spine, which can often happen during childhood or adolescence as the body grows. As many as 80% of scoliosis cases have no apparent cause, and are thus labeled as cases of “idiopathic” scoliosis. The remaining case of scoliosis have various causes such as injuries to the spine, birth defects, or neuromuscular medical conditions such as muscular dystrophy. Many parents are concerned that certain activities or habits will cause a child to develop scoliosis, but many of these are simply not related to the condition in any way. Popular ideas about what causes scoliosis in school age children include:

·       Carrying a heavy book bag can cause scoliosis: this piece of false knowledge is one of the most common misconceptions about the causes and nature of scoliosis among parents of school-age children. While overloading backpacks can lead to back pain and problems with posture, it has not been linked to scoliosis by any reputable source.

·       Lack of proper nutrition can cause scoliosis: once again, this rumored cause has not been accurately shown to have a bearing on scoliosis, although proper nutrition is an important factor in the development of children and adolescents.

·       Sports can cause scoliosis: as stated before, some injuries to the spine can cause scoliosis, but this is a minority of scoliosis cases reported, and physical activity alone has not been shown to lead to the condition.

·       Poor posture can lead to scoliosis: proper posture has many benefits, but prevention against scoliosis is simply not among them.

Detecting Scoliosis in Children

In most cases of scoliosis, there is no pain or discomfort at the early stages. In fact, with most cases it can be difficult for parents or the children themselves to detect any change because of the gradual nature of scoliosis.

In many cases, a teacher or coach may be the one to notice the condition. In fact, many schools in the United States have programs where children are screened for scoliosis around the times that they are most likely to start to be at risk. In addition to this, there are some giveaways that can help parents spot scoliosis early on:

·       differences in the height and/or positions of the shoulder blades

·       asymmetry of the angle/height of the hips or waist

·       an asymmetrical distance between the hip and the arm when in a resting position

·       asymmetrical shoulder height

·       a hump in the back that is present when leaning forward

As stated before, many of these changes occur very gradually, and may be hard to detect, so frequent checks may be necessary. Most cases of scoliosis will not cause severe deformity or require surgery. There are a minority of cases which are categorized as severe, and have consequences that are highly noticeable or require surgical intervention, but those cases are just that: a minority.

If you have any further questions about scoliosis in school-age children, Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence is here to help. To meet with one of our orthopedic doctors, call (719) 623-1050, or request an appointment online.