Most people know that scoliosis means an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine – often in an ‘S’ or ‘C’ shape – but there’s a lot about the condition that you might not be familiar with.Here are some key scoliosis facts:
1 There are different types of scoliosis with different causes
Scoliosis often develops for no clear reason, usually in childhood between the ages of 10-15 (idiopathic scoliosis), while sometimes children are born with it due to spinal bones not developing properly (congenital scoliosis). It can also happen as a result of other conditions, such as muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy (neuromuscular scoliosis).
2 Scoliosis can develop in adults too
Scoliosis in adults can happen for various reasons. ‘Wear and tear’ and degenerative changes within the spinal vertebrates and discs, or muscular imbalances may cause the spine to slope sideways, referred to as degenerative or postural scoliosis.
3 Temporary ‘secondary scoliosis’ is also a thing
Sometimes the spine can suddenly develop a scoliosis-type sideways curve as a result of acute muscle spasms due to sciatic nerve compression – after a disc prolapse, for example. This is almost always temporary and will correct itself as the underlying problem heals.
4 Scoliosis doesn’t always cause pain
Sometimes pain isn’t an issue at all, while for others scoliosis can result in mild to severe pain. This is more likely in younger people with severe spinal curvature, or in adults where the underlying degeneration is also causing nerve compression. However, pain isn’t the only consideration – scoliosis can affect people psychologically too, and might impact on things like breathing and movement.
5 Not everybody with scoliosis needs surgery
Surgery is only generally recommended if the curve is severe or getting worse, or if it’s causing symptoms – such as pain – that are impacting on a person’s quality of life and there’s a good chance surgery would help. The procedure usually involves inserting screws and rods into the spine and ‘fusing’ it into a straighter position.
6 Most scoliosis surgery is performed on teens and young adults
This is partly because adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is the most common type of scoliosis. Surgery’s usually recommended if the curve is 45-50-degrees or greater – but it’s mostly a personal choice rather than an urgent medical need. Our specialist surgeons can talk you through exactly what to expect and all the possible pros and cons involved, to help patients and their families consider their choice. Our information video on treatments for adolescent scoliosis explains more.
7 Adults can sometimes benefit from scoliosis surgery too
While there tends to be less need for scoliosis surgery in adults, and the surgery may be a little more complicated for older people, it may be recommended if your consultant believes it could be beneficial.
8 Other treatments also play a role
For growing children and teens, wearing a special back brace can sometimes help prevent spinal curvature from getting worse. Physiotherapy and things like Pilates can also play a role in managing scoliosis, while your consultant can advise on pain management options. Some people find complementary therapies, alongside self-care and lifestyle measures, can be beneficial and support your general wellbeing too. Find out more in our information video on exercises that can help scoliosis. Are you considering scoliosis surgery for yourself or your child? Our specialist surgeons are here to help – book a consultation via our enquiry form or call us on 020 3950 2409.