Back pain is a familiar problem all adults faced. Stressful work, strenuous physical activity, and bad posture are typical causes. It’s a common scenario to visit your doctor to get a prescription for ordinary back pain. But, this changes when your common back problem turns out to be a medical condition in the spine called scoliosis.
Scoliosis is most detected in late childhood and early teens. Usually, when a growth spurt is happening. However, many people don’t know that scoliosis is a severe medical condition that can develop later in life.
What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a medical condition in which the backbone or spine deforms in an "S" or less commonly a "C" shape. Some noticeable signs are uneven shoulders, waist or hips, leaning to one side, and odd posture.
A physician performs diagnosis through a physical exam and studying the patient's medical history. In some cases, doctors conduct neurological exams. That is to check for muscle weakness, numbness, and abnormal reflexes. The diagnosis is usually confirmed through imaging tests. Some examples are x-ray, spinal radiograph, CT scan, or MRI.
The cause for scoliosis is still unknown, but research says it can run in the family. In a study done on 1,436 patients, 56% had one or more relatives with the condition. However, note that there are cases with no related family history.
Scoliosis in Adults
Although scoliosis is common in children and teens, adults are not exempt. Scoliosis can develop later in life, too. Although, adult scoliosis takes longer to discover since it progresses slowly. Many adults can live for many years without even noticing this condition.
Adult scoliosis occurs in patients 18 years and older. Usually, there is an abnormal side-to-side spinal curve of 10 degrees or greater.
Two common types of scoliosis can affect adults.
Adult Idiopathic Scoliosis
Adult idiopathic scoliosis is a continuation of adolescent scoliosis that has remained undetected. It may have started during your teenage years but gone unnoticed. This form of scoliosis doesn't progress until reaching adulthood. Yet, it can affect both the thoracic and lumbar portions of the spine.
Adult Degenerative Scoliosis
Adult degenerative scoliosis is another form of scoliosis that starts in adulthood. Naturally, our body takes on wear and tear as we age. Our bones undergo degenerative changes making them more vulnerable and prone to injury and damages. When joints deteriorate, it can cause the spine to curve.
This form of scoliosis is most common in older adults but can also affect adults aged 50 years and younger. An estimated 60% of people over age 60 may have mild degenerative scoliosis.
Adult Scoliosis SymptomsRegardless of whether it is idiopathic or degenerative, the symptoms are pretty much similar.
According to WebMD, some adult scoliosis symptoms are:
Adult Scoliosis Treatment Options
You should seek immediate treatment once diagnosed with adult scoliosis. Scoliosis cases are easy to solve, and most don’t require surgery. With the advances of technology, treatments are less invasive, and recovery is much faster.
The following non-surgical options are available:
The best medical practitioners around the globe recommend a combination of scoliosis bracing and physical therapy. Wearing a brace demands less effort, while physical therapy is a lifelong commitment.
Both treatments can lessen the symptoms and correct a patient's musculature, holding the spine in the right place. Contrary to other medical opinions, scoliosis bracing promotes muscle memory. Thus, it helps the spine to stay in the proper position.
Arrange an examination with your doctor to find out the most suitable treatment for your medical condition.
Coping With Adult Scoliosis
Getting diagnosed with adult scoliosis can cause anxiety, fear, and discomfort. Unlike children and teens, the lifestyle of an adult involves a lot of responsibility. Work, family, and business are just some examples.
The pain and discomfort caused by scoliosis can affect a person’s routine and lifestyle. That results in insecurity, shame, and stress. So, aside from treatment, patients must seek medical help and guidance to help cope with physical, emotional, and social challenges.
Home exercises, pain medication, and support groups are accessible with the help of a doctor.
Scoliosis is a serious matter and should be treated as a family affair. Patients and their loved ones must know the symptoms, treatments, complications, and proper management to cope.
Adult Scoliosis: Key Takeaways
Scoliosis is a serious medical condition that affects millions of people, regardless of age, sex, and race.
Though a vast majority of patients are young people, scoliosis can develop later in life. Adults need to be aware of this possibility and take good care of the body by avoiding the bad habits that can result in a spine problem.
The two most common types of scoliosis in adults are:
The most common symptoms of adult scoliosis are back pain and noticeable curvature in the spine.
As soon as diagnosed, scoliosis can be treated and managed with experts and professionals in the field. Resources, treatments, and clinics are available for patients dealing with adult scoliosis.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t disregard them. Talk to a doctor immediately.
Disregarding your symptoms can worsen the condition and may result in further complications.
Remember, as the body ages, the joints become weaker, making it more susceptible to damage. Proper treatment can manage the deterioration and can stop its progress.
We’re here to help. Contact our main office to set an appointment. We provide spine check-ups, scoliosis bracing, and other related services to help patients reach recovery.
The human spine consists of many bones, muscles, white and gray matter arranged in an organized manner. In fact, it’s so amazing that your backbone can carry nearly 2000 pounds without getting crushed!
While the bones protect the spinal cord, the white and gray matter bear 31 pairs of spinal nerves. If you look closely, the spine might look straight when observed from behind and slightly curved when seen from the side. This design allows it to absorb the effects of gravity and deal with all sudden shocks.
Just like other parts of our body, even the spine isn’t free of deformities and disorders. In fact, one in every three American adults is experiencing some or the other form of back pain. What’s even more startling is the stat that at least 80% of Americans will experience back issues in their lifetime.
Let’s look at how these issues are caused.
How Are They Caused?
We often hear complaints of back pain from people who indulge in sports and adventure. However, some more common reasons include incorrect sleeping positions, heavy lifting, and performing repetitive tasks.
These activities may lead to issues such as:
That isn’t an exhaustive list, but most problems related to the back can be associated with one of the above causes. So, how do we discover the difference between momentary back pain due to exertion and a severe spinal issue?
What Are the Types of Spine Disorders?
We have listed the most prevalent spine disorders, their symptoms, and ways to treat them in this section.
It’s commonly called a hunchback or a flat back due to the excessive curvature of the spine. There are multiple types of kyphosis - some are easily correctable, while are others might require surgical intervention. The condition can easily be treated if detected and addressed during childhood.
The symptoms of Kyphosis include back stiffness, a visible curvature, and rounded shoulders.
Postural kyphosis can be corrected using physical therapy and by making conscious efforts to correct posture. Scheuermann’s kyphosis or post-traumatic kyphosis require surgery or a brace
Of late, this notorious condition is wreaking havoc in the lives of American children. It occurs when the angle of sideways curvature is more than 10 degrees. This is determined using the Cobb angle calculation. Depending on the angle it is classified into mild, moderate, and severe.
Scoliosis is progressive. The curvature may increase steadily over the years if not treated in the early stages.
In recent times, scoliosis braces and chiropractic methods have gained traction among those with scoliosis. When there is rapid deterioration, you may require spinal fusion surgery along with a scoliosis brace for post-operative care
3. Disc Herniation
It’s called a hernia when an organ or a tissue in your body protrudes through a cavity. And as the name suggests, disc herniation occurs when the cushiony layer between the vertebrae pushes out.
Herniated lumbar disc is a popular term in the context of slipped discs. This is because the lumbar spine has more stress than any other part of the spine. There are other similar conditions like thoracic and cervical disc herniations.
Physical therapy and pain management sessions should be the first course of action. If the situation doesn’t improve, you might require an invasive procedure to remove the herniated portion.
There’s a tiny bone in your spine named ‘pars interarticularis.’ Spondylolysis is the condition that occurs when this bone experiences stress fractures.
It usually occurs in people who have a weak vertebra due to genes or repeated injuries. While the common symptoms include muscle strain and lower back pain, it often shows up in the body without symptoms.
An ample amount of rest and few physical therapy sessions do the trick most of the time. If the condition aggravates, you might require steroids and pain-relief medication.
The sciatic nerve passes through your lower back down to the legs. Sciatica mainly occurs as an allied condition of spinal stenosis and herniated disc.
Widely known symptoms of sciatica include troubles with bowel movement and chronic lower back pain.
Self-care treatments for sciatica include the application of an ice-pack on hips and gentle stretching. Doctors might also prescribe anti-inflammatory spinal injections and therapy.
6. Spinal Stenosis
Your vertebrae form a tunnel of sorts to house various nerves known as a spinal canal. When the tunnel narrows down, there’s undue pressure on the nerves and the spinal cord leading to stenosis.
Commons among older adults, spinal stenosis is caused by arthritis, spinal tumors, or injuries. The condition might start showing with signs like foot-drop, missing sensation, and leg cramps.
Acupuncture therapy, lumbosacral orthosis, and pain-relief medication help most people with stenosis. Bone removal or widening procedures can help patients if non-surgical treatments are ineffective.
If left unattended, spinal disorders may leave a dent in your life and livelihood.
Whether you have a desk job, are a homemaker, or an adventure sports enthusiast, back issues might not spare you. Take necessary precautions and get a doctor’s appointment if you’re experiencing any chronic pain.
Looking for a WCR brace to treat scoliosis? Reach out to an experienced orthotist at the nearest Align Clinic.
Idiopathic scoliosis is a condition that occurs in which the spine develops an abnormal curve. It’s the most common type of scoliosis and can turn into a severe deformity if left unattended.
It’s a fairly common problem in American kids, but its exact prevalence isn’t apparent. A British study estimates that nearly 0.5-5% of the world population has it in some form or other.
The word ‘idiopathic’ signifies that there is no definite cause for its occurrence. Extensive studies have shown that girls are ten times more prone to it than boys.
A mild instance of idiopathic scoliosis only requires close monitoring. But, one might need a scoliosis brace if things take a turn for the worse.
When Does It Occur?
While idiopathic scoliosis occurs in people of all ages, it’s commonly observed in children. It’s termed early-onset scoliosis when detected at a young age and accompanied by other health conditions.
There are three types of idiopathic scoliosis.
In most cases, early detection and treatment can prevent the condition from becoming more severe. It’s best to treat the condition before the adolescent growth spurt.
How Does Bracing Help in the Treatment of Idiopathic Scoliosis?
According to many studies, the usage of a scoliosis brace is crucial to reduce the chance of developing a severe spinal deformity. The brace is designed to help maintain body alignment and improve balance during children’s growth.
BrAIST (Bracing in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Trial) confirms that early bracing treatment is among the best non-operative methods to cure scoliosis.
If a scoliosis curve is 50 degrees or more at the time of skeletal maturity, it may continue to progress throughout adulthood. These curves tend to cause a severe deformity that requires surgery.
The goal of using a scoliosis brace for adults or children is to avoid surgical procedures. It’s done either by stopping curve progression or preventing it from reaching 50 degrees before skeletal maturity.
Bracing treatment increases pressure on the spine to relieve the load on the inner part of the curvature. At the same time, it increases the load on the outer part of the curve. This doesn’t let the bone experiencing compression grow and instead gives the deviating bone room to grow.
Who Are the Ideal Candidates for Bracing?
Doctors recommend scoliosis bracing for children who are still in the growth phase and have a curvature of 25 degrees or more.
Before prescribing an orthosis, orthopedists will check to ensure that a child isn't too far along in the growth process. They may measure a child's height, ask questions about a girl's periods, or take X-rays to determine if a brace will help your child.
Each child's body and bone curvature is unique, so a scoliosis brace can only be made to order. You will require the services of an orthotist to get the brace designed and checked.
It’s worth noting that the bracing treatment won't help if a curve is too big (usually more than 40 degrees).
What Is the Right Time to Start Bracing Treatment?
Cobb angle is a standard method to track the progress of bone formation and its curvature levels. It’s called scoliosis only if the angle of curvature is more than 10 degrees. This can be determined with a simple spine X-ray and some math.
Doctors might want to monitor development when the Cobb angle is more than 10 degrees but less than 25 degrees. After four to six months, another X-ray is recommended to check if the curve is progressing.
A scoliosis brace is prescribed when certain objective conditions are met.
Your doctor is unlikely to prescribe a scoliosis brace if your kid is nearing or at full skeletal maturity.
What are the Challenges of Using a Brace?
Making your little one wear a medical device throughout the day can be quite the task, for starters. They might flat out refuse to wear one or make excuses to remove it. Even after they embrace the brace, other problems may creep in.
Braces are designed to fit the body perfectly. As a result, kids complain of not breathing correctly or feeling stuffy while wearing one. Factors like friction and accumulation of sweat often lead to rashes or skin irritation.
You can overcome these challenges by encouraging your kid, regular maintenance, and following best practices. More importantly, visit your orthotist immediately if you think that the brace is ill-fitted or you see signs of a tear.
It’s essential to get the opinion of your orthopedist or physical therapist before starting with a bracing regimen. If you’re prescribed to wear a scoliosis brace, ensure that you follow through diligently since it’s the key to prevent surgery.
Are you worried about dealing with scoliosis as an adult? Here’s a blog post that lays out the treatment options and coping mechanisms.
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