Scoliosis is a spinal deformity in which a person’s spine is curved unnaturally toward the right and/or left side of the body, often in the shape of an “S” or “C.” This relatively common condition can develop at birth, later in life or as a result of another condition like spina bifida or cerebral palsy. There is no clear cause of scoliosis, although genetics is believed to play a factor. Treatment options for scoliosis vary, ranging from non-invasive physical therapy and bracing to traditional open spinal surgeries such as fusion. Likewise, the prognosis for an individual diagnosed with scoliosis varies depending on the severity and curvature of the spine.

Treatment options

Almost everyone develops very minor scoliosis. In these very minor cases, the diagnosis is made incidentally following a chest X-ray. More severe scoliosis may have a significant effect on the patient, interfering with daily activities and requiring lengthy treatment. The need for invasive treatment is rare. There are numerous treatment options available to manage scoliosis, many of which have shown positive long-term results.

Some examples of treatment include:

  • The use of bracing to support the spine and promote proper bone growth
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the back muscles
  • Surgical correction with fusion and the installation of titanium rods and screws

Left untreated, severe scoliosis may result in significant health problems. In addition to the negative aesthetic aspects of this condition, scoliosis can lead to substantial back pain, fatigue, respiratory problems, spinal cord damage and other symptoms. In most cases, scoliosis is monitored in growing children. If the curvature increases, back muscle exercises should be initiated. If curvature increases and becomes severe, a back brace may be needed. Surgery is usually recommended only after the spine has stopped growing and physiologic compromise occurs.

Important note

If you or someone you love has scoliosis, spina bifida, Scheuermann’s kyphosis or another type of spinal deformity, it is important to visit your physician and learn about your treatment options. You may want a second or third opinion if you feel your medical needs have been insufficiently addressed or if therapy fails.