By Oumie Gaye
Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to curve to the side. Scoliosis causes the abnormal curvature of the vertebral column. It could be an “S” Curve or a “C” curve. It can affect the chest area (thoracic scoliosis) and the lower section of the back (lumbar scoliosis). Scoliosis targets the vertebral column which simply is a series of bones that protect the spine. Normally, there are two curvatures of the vertebral column; kyphosis, which is the curvature of the vertebral column in the thoracic and sacral region in the anterior direction and Lordosis, which is the curvature of the vertebral column in the lumbar and cervical region to the posterior.
Scoliosis usually presents in children aged between 10 to 15 years. These children are usually undergoing puberty and the condition is much more common in females. It might be mild but when associated with other conditions it is usually much more serious.
The signs and symptoms of scoliosis are:
· Back pain associated with pain in the shoulders, neck and buttock pain also with uneven musculature on those sides.
· Cardiac or respiratory changes in severe cases, this is because of heart and lung problems.
· Constipation due to curvature of the spine causing the stomach and intestines to tighten.
· Limited movement due to pain.
· Differences in the length of hips, arms or legs.
The risk factors of scoliosis include:
· Age: scoliosis signs and symptoms often start during a growth spurt that occurs just before puberty. Therefore, people who reached sexual maturity are less likely to have progressive diseases. Late onset ones cause little physical impairments other than back pain and cosmetic concerns.
· Gender: females have higher risk of scoliosis compared to males.
· Genetics: people with scoliosis are more likely to have close relatives with the same condition than people without scoliosis.
· Bone maturity: the risk of the curve worsening is much lower if the patient’s bones have stopped growing.
The exact cause of Scoliosis is not known but both genetic and environmental factors are believed to be involved. That is why in some cases scoliosis is seen amongst family members. A few conditions associated with scoliosis are:
· Osteoporosis: In the elderly, the occurrence of bone degeneration (osteoporosis) can lead to scoliosis and they can use sticks or crouches for support based on advice by relevant health personnel.
· Neuromuscular conditions: These are conditions that affect the nerves and muscles such as cerebral palsies, poliomyelitis and muscular dystrophy (wasting of body tissues due to genetics or defective nutrition).
· Congenital Scoliosis: This is very rare but occurs when there’s an abnormally in the development of the spine in the foetus, hence it presents at birth and this can usually be observed in babies.
· Syndromic scoliosis: Scoliosis can also develop as part of another disease such as neurofibromatosis (genetic disorder with multiple benign tumours affecting the nerves under the skin).
However, a large percentage of scoliosis cases have an unknown cause.
Complications of scoliosis include chronic pain, back pain, respiratory deficiencies and decreased exercise capacity. Only a small number of patients with scoliosis require surgery, it is not advisable to perform surgery on it above the age of 21. However, there are other alternatives to dealing with this condition. Some of which include:
· Casting: Mostly used for infantile scoliosis to help the spine of infants to go back to its normal position as it grows, it is mostly done with a cast made up of plaster of Paris. It is often changed regularly since the infant’s growth rate is rapid.
· Bracing: these are not very common in this country but can also be used in the regulation of scoliosis. The braces are worn by patients with moderate scoliosis whose bones are still growing, which can be removed if in any case the child wishes to take part in physical activity.
· Physiotherapy: This is a form of therapy that uses physical techniques such as massage, ultrasound, heat, light or exercise. Mostly used for the treatment of patients with scoliosis above the age of 21. The massage can be done in such a way as to strengthen the muscles of the patient in other to adapt to the one sided weight disposition which can unfortunately lead to muscular atrophy.
Just as usual, in case you observe any abnormality in your body, do visit the nearest health centre and it would be taken care of. Your life is precious.