Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) is the most common type of scoliosis seen in children between ages 10 to 15 years old. In fact, 3 out 100 adolescents suffer from AIS. People with scoliosis may have a back that curves to the side like an “S” or “C”. Mild curves generally do not cause problems to the patient. However, for severe curves, it can be very visible and can cause discomfort for the patient. Some can even affect the breathing, heart, joints, and spine.
Aside from the physical discomfort, severe scoliosis can have psychological effects, affecting confidence and esteem. Emotional pain leads to substance abuse, and studies show that girls with scoliosis are 3x more likely to drink than those without, and boys with scoliosis consume 94% more alcohol than their normal peers. Hence, they would need help for an addiction aside from their physical health concerns.
Causes of Scoliosis
The cause of scoliosis is still elusive in the medical world. No one knows what really causes it but doctors believe that genetic factors play an important role. If a family member has the condition, other blood relatives may also acquire it.
Scoliosis is also more common in girls than in boys.
People with scoliosis usually suffer from no pain or any sign of illness. Most of the time they look and feel normal, but there are still visible signs and symptoms:
- Uneven hips
- Shoulder asymmetry – You might notice that one shoulder blade may appear higher/lower than the other
- Torso lean – When the body slightly leans to the left or right side
- Lower back pain – some patients may complain of lower back pain, but doctors found out that this pain is not associated with the curvature in scoliosis.
Mild scoliosis in teens usually doesn’t need immediate medical treatment. Regular checkups or monitoring is advised just to make sure that the curve does not get any bigger.
X-rays are often done in order to check the curve and its severity. Doctors measure the curvature of the spine in degrees to determine what specific treatment they will give you.
Patients with scoliosis below 20 degrees are advised to take regular checkups just to monitor the curve progress. Other patients with scoliosis that are 20 to 40 degrees may need a back brace. For 50 degrees and above, however, surgeries may be needed for the treatment.
The management of scoliosis is based on three categories: observation, back brace, and surgery.
Again, for mild curves that are 20 to 30 degrees, observation of the curve progress is the only needed treatment. Doctors will check the curve progression every few years.
Back braces are used to stop the progression of the curve in scoliosis. It will not perfectly straighten the spine but it is effective in halting the curvature. Some braces are advised to be worn 18-20 hours per day while others are just worn during nighttime.
There are patients who have had the back brace treatment for several years but still end up having a need for surgical intervention. These patients have curves greater than 45 degrees and are still progressing. The surgery involves using metal implants that are attached to the spine which are then connected to rods. These metal implants are used to correct and hold the spine in its proper position.