Scoliosis is a spinal condition where the spine curves sideways instead of maintaining its natural straight alignment. The curvature can be in the shape of an "S" or a "C" and can vary in severity.
The exact cause of scoliosis is often unknown, referred to as idiopathic scoliosis. However, certain factors contribute to its development:
• Congenital scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is present at birth and occurs due to abnormal spinal development in the womb.
• Neuromuscular scoliosis: Underlying conditions such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or spinal muscular atrophy can lead to scoliosis.
• Degenerative scoliosis: It occurs in older adults due to wear and tear on the spine, often associated with aging and conditions like osteoporosis.
• Idiopathic scoliosis: This is the most common form and has no identifiable cause. It typically emerges during adolescence and affects girls more frequently.
While some cases of scoliosis may be painless and go unnoticed, common symptoms include:
• Uneven shoulder or hip height
• Uneven waist or ribs
• Prominent shoulder blade or rib cage
• Leaning to one side
• Uneven gaps between the arms and body when standing straight
• Back pain or discomfort (less common)
Scoliosis is classified based on the age of onset, severity, and underlying cause.
• Infantile scoliosis: Occurs in children under 3 years old.
• Juvenile scoliosis: Develops between 3 and 10 years old.
• Adolescent scoliosis: Most common, appearing between 10 and 18 years old.
• Adult scoliosis: Develops in adulthood, typically due to degenerative changes.
The severity of the curvature is measured using the Cobb angle on X-rays, which helps determine the appropriate treatment approach.
The treatment of scoliosis depends on factors such as the age of the individual, the severity of the curve, and potential progression. Treatment options include:
• Observation: Regular monitoring of the curvature to ensure it doesn't progress.
• Bracing: Wearing a specialised brace to prevent further curvature progression during growth.
• Physiotherapy: Targeted exercises, stretching, and strengthening to improve posture, muscle balance, and mobility.
• Chiropractic care: Manual adjustments and therapies to alleviate pain and improve spinal alignment.
• Surgical intervention: In severe cases or when the curvature progresses significantly, surgery may be recommended to correct the spine's alignment.
Exercise can be an important component in managing scoliosis. However, it is crucial to consult with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist, who can design an individualised exercise program based on the specific needs and limitations of each person. Exercise options may include:
• Core strengthening exercises: Focus on strengthening the abdominal and back muscles to support the spine and improve posture.
• Stretching exercises: Target tight muscles to improve flexibility and alleviate muscle imbalances.
• Postural exercises: Help maintain proper alignment and promote balanced muscle development.
• Aerobic exercises: Engage in low-impact activities such as swimming, walking, or cycling to improve overall fitness and cardiovascular health.