Scoliosis is not a condition caused by carrying a heavy load (not even a very heavy one). Scoliosis is also not caused by childhood sports injuries, heavy backpacks full of books or hiking gear. Heavy loads may cause back, neck and shoulder pain, but scoliosis develops in different ways. There is a fine line between degenerative conditions due to prolonged heavy load bearing, and the potential cause and diagnosis of scoliosis. It often helps to have a better understanding of certain conditions, as being informed can often be good medicine by itself.
Scoliosis is a spinal disorder that results in the development of a curved spine. The medical term scoliosis comes from a Latin word “skolios,” which means bent or curved. Scoliosis is often idiopathic (meaning without an obvious cause). Physicians may refer to the letters “S” or “C” to describe the degree or shape of the curve of the spine. If a spine is curved more than 10 degrees, it is considered to be scoliosis.
Structural and Nonstructural Scoliosis
When the cause of scoliosis is known, it is usually placed in one of two categories; nonstructural or structural. The main difference between the two is that structural scoliosis results in a spinal curve that is completely rigid and irreversible.
Causes of structural scoliosis include:
Birth defects such as hemivertebra (a lack of proper formation on one half of the spine)
- Poliomyelitis or muscular dystrophy
- Genetic conditions such as Down’s Syndrome
- Traumatic injuries
- Cerebral Palsy
- Spinal muscular atrophy (wasting of the muscles)
Structural scoliosis can also be degenerative. This tends to occur in older adults and is often related to arthritic changes within the spine, or weakening of the ligaments or other tissues around and connected to the spine.
In nonstructural scoliosis (also called functional scoliosis), the spine appears bent, but in all other respects, is fully functional. In most cases this form of scoliosis can be temporary, depending on the cause. Causes of nonstructural scoliosis can include:
- Pain and muscular spasms
- Sciatica (related to sciatic nerve pain)
- Hysterical (a very rare condition related to psychological disorder)
- Postural (related to posture over a long period of time)
- A difference in the length of the legs (often related to the pelvis)
- Certain inflammatory conditions such as appendicitis
Scoliosis frequently becomes more obvious during early adolescence and can worsen with age. Females diagnosed with scoliosis are 10 times more likely to develop a more severe form of scoliosis than males. In some cases, surgeons may be able to stabilize and straighten the spine. This form of surgery is more common in children, but does carry certain risks. Only a qualified orthopedic surgeon can determine if scoliosis is treatable.
If you, or a loved one are suffering from scoliosis or any other muscle, bone or joint related injury or condition, please contact Orthopaedic Associates at (440) 892-1440 to schedule a personalized appointment with one of our highly trained Orthopaedic Physicians. Every age, every bone – Orthopedic Associates.