Scoliosis is a type of skeletal deformity in which the spine is curved to the side. The best treatment for scoliosis depends on a number of factors, including the severity and location of the curve, the underlying cause of the deformity, and the age of the patient. Children and adolescents who are still growing are often fitted with braces that help to promote straighter spines. Adults and young people with severe scoliosis often need to undergo surgical procedures to ease pain and prevent the condition from worsening. Ongoing physical therapy and frequent checkups can help ensure the success of treatment for scoliosis.
Most cases of scoliosis are easy to identify. Even mild spine curvatures result in the appearance of uneven shoulders or hips. People often experience chronic back pain and fatigue, especially after sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time. A person with a moderate to severe curve may walk with an awkward gait and have difficulties engaging in physical activities. It is important to schedule an appointment with a doctor when an individual or her child exhibits symptoms; treatment for scoliosis is most effective when the condition is discovered in its earliest stages.
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A doctor can examine a patient's physical symptoms, feel around on the spine and surrounding tissue, and take x-rays of the back. In order to make a proper diagnosis, the physician may conduct additional tests to check for underlying causes. Some cases of scoliosis are the result of congenital defects, neuromuscular diseases, and arthritis. The condition is usually idiopathic, however, meaning that a cause cannot be determined.
Some cases of congenital and idiopathic scoliosis in infants correct themselves within the first few years of life. Children under the age of six do not usually receive treatment for scoliosis unless their curves are very severe. For older children and adolescents, wearing specially designed back braces for several hours a day is generally considered to be the best treatment option. Just like braces worn on the teeth, back braces apply very light pressure to gradually straighten out the spine. By wearing a brace while the bones are still developing, vertebrae are more likely to grow into alignment.
Surgery is frequently deemed to be the best treatment for scoliosis for adults, children with severe curves, and people of all ages with neuromuscular disorders. A team of skilled surgeons can conduct a very delicate procedure to fuse vertebrae together, which prevents a curve from getting worse. Surgery is often very effective at relieving pain and other symptoms, though it is rare for a procedure to fully correct the condition. People may still experience episodes of back pain throughout their lives. By engaging in strengthening exercises and meeting regularly with doctors, patients can usually learn to cope with their conditions and enjoy regular activities.