What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition that causes curving of the spine and is most commonly diagnosed in adolescents. It is diagnosed when the curve of the spine is measured to be greater than ten degrees in an x-ray image test. Curvature of the spine is often mild but worsens over time and as children grow and develop. In some cases, scoliosis can cause disabling in individuals and can also limit the amount of chest space present, which can cause difficulty breathing from the lungs. Scoliosis affects two to three percent of the human population. The condition occurs equally among males and females and is most frequently diagnosed during the ages of ten to fifteen.

The different types of scoliosis are called congenital scoliosis, idiopathic scoliosis, and neuromuscular scoliosis. Congenital scoliosis forms when a mishap of the vertebrae occurs. The signs of this are present in early infancy but are often diagnosed in adolescent years. Idiopathic scoliosis occurs most commonly around the age of ten years old and worsens over time. Doctors grow concerned about one’s condition if the child has a long journey of growth ahead of them. Neuromuscular scoliosis occurs when a child has an underlying condition pertaining to their muscles that puts them at higher risk for developing the curvature condition. Conditions like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and spina bifida are often linked to neuromuscular scoliosis. In cases like these, braces are often given to the individual to protect or limit further curving of the spine.

Spine Anatomy

The spine curves at the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar areas on the sagittal plane. The spine is made up of thirty three vertebrae, or small bones that form the spinal canal. Within the canal is the spinal cord, which is protected by the canal. The vertebrae are able to move against one another due to the existence of facet joints, which are lubricated tissue that allow the spine to twist, turn, and gain flexibility. Another structure of the spine is the intervertebral disk. The disks exist between the vertebrae and absorb shock motions. The disks are softer in the center or at the nucleus pulposus and have an outer ring called an annulus. The spinal cord is a collection of nerves that align vertically and travel through the spinal canal. The spinal cord moves from the skull to the lower back and is where nerves carry signals and messages from the brain to the muscles of the body. Finally, ligaments, muscles, and tendons all exist in the area to support the back, help with movement, and connect all the structures of the spine.

Signs & Symptoms

Scoliosis symptoms vary immensely. The most common symptom is unevenness of the shoulders. In this event, the shoulder blades may appear to be sticking out. Additional signs and symptoms include but are not limited to: the head appears to not be directly centered above the pelvis, hips are raised or high, rib cages exist at different heights, uneven waist, the whole body leans more to one side, skin texture near the spine appears to change, and one side of the back sticks out when bending over. In most cases, the spine will appear to bend or twist into the shape of a letter C or a letter S.

Causes of Scoliosis

Scoliosis causes are not quite known by healthcare providers, but the condition is said to involve hereditary factors, for it is often seen to run in familial genes. Scoliosis can be caused by pre-existing conditions like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, birth defects that impact bone development, infant surgery, and spinal cord conditions.

Risk Factors

Scoliosis risk factors include but are not limited to: age, sex, and family history. Scoliosis symptoms usually begin to become prevalent in adolescence. The condition treats both genders equally in terms of development, but worsens more rapidly in females. As far as family history goes, the condition does run in a hereditary manner.

When to See a Doctor

It is important to know when one should see a doctor regarding their condition. Children who have mild curvature of the spine often do not need treatment. It is important to see a doctor if any symptoms are noticed, for the curvature must be monitored to ensure that it is not worsening as the adolescent grows over time.

How Scoliosis is Diagnosed

Scoliosis is often diagnosed through physical examination and image testing. The primary tool for diagnosis is x-ray technology that allows for degrees of the spinal bones to be measured. Additionally, healthcare providers may utilize MRI technology and CT scans to obtain images of structures within the back area.

Scoliosis Treatment Options

Treatment options for scoliosis include both nonsurgical and surgical as well as physical therapy.


Healthcare providers may pay careful attention to the spine curvature to ensure that the curving is not getting any worse. The most effective nonsurgical treatment option for the condition is bracing. If the child is still growing, the doctor may order them to wear a brace to prevent the curve from increasing. Braces have been proven to limit progression of curving in the spine in eighty percent of children.


When the spinal curve is greater than fifty degrees, your doctor may suggest surgical treatment. There are a number of surgery types performed to treat scoliosis including: posterior approach, anterior approach, decompressive laminectomy, and minimally invasive surgery. During the posterior approach, the patient will lie on the stomach and the spine will be straightened with rods. During the anterior approach, the patient will lie on the side and receive incisions. The surgeon will remove a rib to access the spine and correct the matter. During decompressive laminectomy, the tops of the vertebrae are removed in order to create more space for the back structures and screws and rods will be inserted. During minimally invasive surgery, the surgeon will use imaging technology and small incisions to perform fusion within the area.

Physical Therapy

In some cases, your healthcare provider will suggest that you receive physical therapy treatment. Here, the physical therapist will assist you and order you through a series of muscle strengthening and mobility increasing exercises. Physical therapy will be done for an extended period of time and will help lessen the curvature of the spine as well as prevent the spine from curving any further.

Scoliosis Prevention

Although there is no said remedy for scoliosis prevention, the progression of the curvature can be prevented through mindfulness of physical activity. Through wearing a brace, proper exercises, physical therapy, and working with healthcare experts, progression of the condition can be prevented.

For more information about scoliosis treatment options in Long Island, contact Hicksville Physical Therapy today.

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