Scoliosis is not a disease, per se, but a term used to identify a condition that involves an abnormal curvature of the spine. Therefore, the question of, “How do you get scoliosis?” cannot be answered in the same way that you can explain how someone gets a cold, the flu or another type of illness. In fact, scoliosis has no clear cause, but the majority of people with the condition begin to develop the signs early in adolescence.
Scoliosis can be divided into several categories, including congenital, neuromuscular, and degenerative. Congenital scoliosis develops in the womb when the bones of the spine don’t form properly; neuromuscular scoliosis is caused by disorders like muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy; and degenerative scoliosis develops when the intervertebral discs or facet joints of the spine begin to deteriorate due to the normal aging process.
Symptoms of scoliosis
In some cases, spinal curvature associated with scoliosis is mild and many not produce any symptoms. Common signs of scoliosis include:
- Uneven shoulders and/or waist
- One hip is higher than the other
- One prominent shoulder blade
- Difficulty breathing (in severe cases)
Scoliosis can put excess stress on the vertebrae and intervertebral discs of the spine. The condition can often lead to degenerative conditions, like degenerative disc disease or spinal osteoarthritis, which may cause spinal nerve compression. Nerve compression can cause symptoms of pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness in the neck, back and/or extremities.
In adolescence, scoliosis can usually be treated with bracing, behavior modification or sometimes surgery, in severe cases. In adulthood, however, conservative treatments like physical therapy, epidural steroid injections and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are usually helpful. In the event that non-surgical treatments are ineffective, surgery may be necessary. If you would like to explore your options for minimally invasive adult scoliosis procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute.