The ‘Unnatural’ Curve
The human spine or backbone is formed of multiple vertebrae which protect and support the spinal cord and helps it hold the body upright. In Scoliosis, a condition particularly related to the spine, the individual’s spine is not straight but rather curved. In the absence of the spine’s gentle curve down the back, it is impossible to walk or balance the body. However in Scoliosis, the spine bends to the side abnormally; either to the right or left.
Back pain can eventually develop as the condition progresses. The deformity may cause pressure on your nerves and possibly even on your spinal cord. This can lead to weakness, numbness, and pain in your lower extremities. In severe cases, pressure on the spinal cord may cause loss of coordination in the muscles of your legs, making it difficult to walk normally. If your chest is deformed due to the scoliosis, your lungs and heart may be affected. This can cause breathing problems, fatigue, and even heart failure. Fortunately these severe symptoms are rare.
However with advancement in age, the problem further aggravates. With time scoliosis develops and so does with time its symptoms manifest in an individual’s life. A scoliotic person can be an active individual performing all the life tasks with zeal and vigor but the inability of their spine to stand straight is the major disabling factor in their life.
Scoliosis progresses 8 times more in girls than in boys
While scoliosis may develop in infancy or early childhood, the most common age for it to occur is early puberty, with most cases first detected between the ages of 9 and 13. The condition is related to growth and if it is going to get worse, it will mainly do so when the child is growing most rapidly.
Of the approximately 2-2.5% of adolescents with scoliosis, the curve will worsen in about 10%. Though it is unclear why, scoliosis occurs equally across gender but progresses 8 times more in girls than in boys. This is why many specialists recommend that girls especially, but in fact all children, be screened frequently during growth.
What causes Scoliosis?
- Unknown causes – in about 80% of cases the cause is unknown.
- Neuromuscular conditions – these are conditions that affect the nerves and muscles. About 20% of scoliosis cases are caused by neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. In such cases the child may not be able to walk to stay upright, further preventing the spins from growing properly.
- Present at birth – this is rare and occurs because of the bones in the spine developing abnormally when the fetus is developing in the uterus (womb).
- Leg length – if one leg is longer than the other the individual may develop scoliosis.
- Other causes – bad posture, using backpacks or satchels, and exercise may also cause scoliosis.
Symptoms of Scoliosis
People with scoliosis commonly see a spine specialist because they notice a problem with the way their back looks. Most common observation are-:
- One shoulder or hip may be higher than the other
- One shoulder blade may be higher and stick out farther than the other
- A “rib hump” may occur, which is a hump on your back that sticks up when you bend forward. This occurs because the ribs on one side angle more than on the other side
- One arm hangs longer than the other because of a tilt in the upper body
- The waist may appear asymmetrical.
Scoliosis impacts physical and emotional health
A scoliotic person can be an active individual performing all the activities of daily living but low on self-confidence, very conscious about their appearance and in extreme cases may be under depression.
A recent study found that adolescents with progressive Scoliosis report lower self-image and worse quality of life than children without scoliosis.
Many studies have found that teenagers with scoliosis are not happy with their appearance. They often fear that their bodies are developing abnormally. Boys with scoliosis tend to view themselves in poorer health when compared to their peers. So diagnosis of scoliosis in a child who already struggles with poor body image can cause her more stress.
Other emotional issues
Being diagnosed with scoliosis can cause lot of stress. When first diagnosed, they may have felt anxiety, fear, and withdrawal. These feelings tend to improve with time depending on treatment.
If one has to wear a brace before surgery, he/she may face a few issues:
- Feeling different from her friends at a sensitive age
- Trying to wear clothing that hides the brace
- Deciding whether to w. ear the brace with certain social activities
- Teasing from other teens at school
- Scoliosis can put patient at risk for alcohol or drug use, suicidal thoughts, and other issues. It seems that teens who receive scoliosis treatment after age 16 years have more emotional problems than those treated at a younger age.
How to tackle Scoliosis effectively:
Early consultation can help patient in getting good results and do help in preventing the progression. Most of the parents are apprehensive and under informed pertaining to progress of the disease and the cosmetic appearance of their child. A common behavioral pattern in parents is that they become obsessive and over indulge themselves in rehabilitation program. On the other hand child becomes an attention seeker and at times rebel.
While surgery is a popular option for people suffering from Scoliosis, it is also advised to look into other forms of corrective measures before going under the knife.
Parental education and involvement of parents in rehabilitation program (by teaching them exercises, techniques and corrective positioning to be replicated at home) can help them become more accepting and in general at ease with themselves. Exercising regularly can help a scoliotic child better about her body. Being in contact with other patients facing the same issues can really help. Talking about the challenges of clothing, sports, and dating can help to cope better. Talking with peers can also help her feel less isolated.
Usage of wall bar exercises, swiss ball exercises, etc. breaks the monotonous pattern of exercise and maintains interest of the patient. Overall it not only helps in maintenance or preventing progression of curve but also help patient and their family member more acceptable and self confident.