Scoliosis (curvature of the spine)

Scoliosis is when your spine is curved abnormally to one side. It usually develops in children between the ages of 9-14.


Although no one is sure exactly what causes scoliosis, you are more likely to have it if you have other conditions including cerebral palsy, Marfan syndrome or muscular dystrophy. In adults it can be caused by damage to the spine, or scoliosis that wasn’t diagnosed when you were a child and it’s thought that as many as seven out of 10 adults have the condition to some extent.


These include appearing ‘lopsided’ (one shoulder higher than the other or one shoulder blade sticking out more than the other); leaning to one side; or one hip sticking out more than the other. Although in most cases scoliosis itself does not cause pain, the spinal curvature can put pressure on nearby muscles, making them tender. Some people have pain that spreads to their hip, legs or arms. More serious symptoms, which affect nerve endings, include loss of bladder or bowel control; weakness or numbness in the legs; and in men, erectile dysfunction (inability to get or maintain an erection).


Scoliosis can be diagnosed during a physical examination of the spine, backed up with X-rays to examine the curvature in greater detail. If your symptoms affect your nerves, you may also need further tests including an ultrasound, MRI or CT scan.


Non-operative treatment: as well as taking painkillers to help your symptoms, including anti-inflammatory medication, you may also be offered treatment if the scoliosis is putting pressure on a nerve. This can include a nerve block anaesthetic to reduce pain. In some cases, where osteoporosis is making symptoms worse, you may also be given medication and vitamin supplements, along with advice about your diet and a targeted weight-bearing exercise programme.

Surgery: this can include spinal decompression to reduce pressure on a nerve or spinal fusion surgery to stabilise/correct the curvature.


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