Life’s Unexpected Roller Coaster: A Study of Scoliosis
Many people may wonder exactly what scoliosis is. Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that is greater than ten degrees. Mild scoliosis ranges from ten to twenty degrees. Intermediate scoliosis ranges from twenty to seventy degrees, and severe scoliosis is any curve greater than seventy degrees. Though cases of scoliosis are found equally among both male and females, females scoliosis tends to be more severe (Board). Scoliosis can be present at birth, congenital. There are a few different types of scoliosis; functional, structural, and idiopathic structural. In functional scoliosis the problem does not originate the spine. The curvature in functional scoliosis is flexible, and the curve is normally caused by uneven legs or muscle spasms caused by pain (Board). Functional scoliosis will go away when the underlying problem is corrected. For example in the case of uneven legs orthopedic shoes can be worn. In structural scoliosis the curvature is not flexible it is a fixed curvature in the spine. There could be an underlying problem with the brain or spinal cord. In structural scoliosis there could also be an underlying problem with nerves or muscles (Board). Most scoliosis patients have idiopathic structural scoliosis. Eighty percent of all scoliosis cases are idiopathic structural scoliosis. The cause of idiopathic structural scoliosis is unknown, but symptoms are present.
Scoliosis can have several symptoms. It can cause uneven body parts such has the shoulders or waist. Scoliosis victims may lean to the side or become fatigued. Back pain and difficulty breathing are also some of the symptoms but normally are only seen in severe scoliosis cases (Board). Though there are some known causes, most causes for scoliosis are unknown. Congenital scoliosis is considered to be a birth defect. It may occur with other problems such as heart and kidney abnormalities. Spinal cord and brainstem abnormalities are also a possibility (Board). The way scoliosis is diagnosed is called the Cobb Method. The Cobb Method requires the most tilted vertebrae to be identified. A line is then drawn along the ends of these vertebrae to measure the curve. The patient is then asked to bend forward to check for bumps which may be a sign of scoliosis. Finally, an x-ray helps determine the type of scoliosis the patient has (Board). Scoliosis can come with some health risks. In severe scoliosis, the curvature is so great that it could cause the ribs to press against the heart or lungs. This in turn can cause breathing problems. If the curve is greater than one hundred degrees it could cause physical damage to the heart or lungs. Scoliosis can also cause chronic back pain or arthritis of the spine in adults (Board).
There are several ways scoliosis can be treated. If the patient is a child that is still growing with a curve of twenty to thirty degrees a back brace can be used. There are two different types of back braces. The underarm or low profile brace is close fitting which makes it almost invisible under clothes. This brace fits under the arms, and around the ribcage, lower back and hips. The underarm brace is a custom made brace fit specially to the patient (Board). The Milwaukee brace is a full torso brace used for upper spine curves. It has a neck ring with rests for the chin and for the back of the head (Board). For curves greater than forty degrees, surgery may be needed. There are a few different types of scoliosis surgery. Spinal fusion is the most common type of scoliosis surgeries. This surgery works by releasing some ligaments and joints around the spinal cord and attaching a rod. A posterior or anterior approach is used to reach the spine. Hook or screws are inserted into the vertebrae to hold the rod in place, and the joints between vertebrae are removed. The rod is pulled tight and a bone graft is placed (Board). Another type of spinal fusion uses thoracoscopy. The...
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