Scoliosis is the lateral or side-ways curve in your spine. Although most people believe your spine should be perfectly straight, in fact this is very uncommon. Why?

Your right or left handed dominance will pull the spine out of balance. This does not mean you will have any pain or structural issues. It is a normal part of life, as you do not perform all activities perfectly symmetrically.

This minor change is common, but the degree of curvature is very small and usually completely painless. There are types where the curve is greater and it is those that are classed as the 'true' scoliosis conditions.

There are four types of scoliosis...

What types of scoliosis are there?

spinal curvature The most common form is called idiopathic, meaning there is no known reason for the condition. It is usually classed further into age ranges, such as juvenile, adolescent and adult variants.

There is the neuromuscular type, where there is a problem when the bones of the spine were formed. Either the bones of the spine fail to form completely, or they fail to separate from each other. This type is usually more sever and surgery the only option at straightening the spine.

Degenerative forms are the result of arthritic changes that occur in the elderly. As the ligaments weaken the spine will lose its ability to maintain straight lines. Bony spurs develop and pain is common.

The final variant is called functional scoliosis; this is where the curvature is secondary to other changes in the spine, such as spinal imbalances. This may also be the result of a short leg or other height difference in the lower limb.

How common is scoliosis?

Although a perfectly straight spine is uncommon, the curvatures that are severe enough to be classed as a scoliosis are only numbered ion the 2-3% range. Of these numbers only approximately 10% need surgery to correct the curvature. The remainder is classed as non-surgical and exercises to strengthen the spine are recommended along with other methods to keep it balanced, such as braces and rods.

What are the treatments for scoliosis?

If the curvature is significant, then there is a range of treatments used. Braces can be used to help keep the spine straight and may help the body to reduce or ease the curvature.

If serious (greater than 40 degree curve), surgery is needed to either insert rods to help stop the spine increasing in the curvature, or even spinal fusions to fuse the bones and joints.

In those with minor cases, exercises to strengthen the spine are recommended along with regular monitoring.

What if the scoliosis is minor?

If you have only minor changes, which may be due to various functional conditions, then working on those functional conditions is the best approach. This may reduce the curve or at least prevent it from getting worse.

The main aim is to reduce pain and improve function as much as possible. Spinal balancing may be of benefit as it helps to keep both the muscles and joints working optimally. With time this will help the spine to straighten.

However, the prime goal is pain relief and improving function of the spine as much as possible. In severe cases, spinal balancing may be of little help, it is those with minor changes that it may benefit.


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