This month is Scoliosis Awareness Month! Remember the nurse who checked our spines when we were kids at school (if you were born in the 70’s, maybe)? This is what she/he was looking for…
Scoliosis is a condition that affects the curvature of the spine. From the back our spines should be straight. When we have a scoliosis, the spine is curving to the side or sometimes in an S shape. This can be painful, painless, visible, or unseen.
The causes are often unknown. In practice we mainly see it in teenagers who have grown very quickly, or in older patients who may have had changes in the shape of their vertebrae over time. It can even occur in patients who have one leg longer than the other (yes this can happen) or teenagers carrying heavy bags on one shoulder for long periods of time (i.e. over their school years). There are some other underlying conditions that can also cause it, which are rarer, but require medical attention.
So, what should you look out for?
Scoliosis usually starts as a small curve, but this can be unnoticeable to the untrained eye.
Therefore, it’s hard to figure out if you or a loved one has scoliosis without an expert assessment. Signs might well be nothing at all, or you could notice…
- A visible curve in the spine
- A lean to one side of the body
- Uneven shoulders
- One hip higher than the other (hem lines of skirts are uneven)
- A leg length difference
- Clothes not fitting well
- A humping of one side of the rib cage
- Lower back pain, Mid back pain or Neck pain
So, what can we do to remedy this? It is all about catching it early. Imagine your spine is like a tree… If a tree is growing at an angle when young, how will the trunk and branches be when it is fully grown? Wonky, right?
So, if we saw this happening, we would use a pole to straighter the tree, to support it as it grows. It is the same for our spines. If we see that they are curved it makes sense to help straighten them out before they are fully grown. In teenagers, scoliosis curves can develop very quickly (a matter of months in some cases), and if not seen early enough can require surgery.
But don’t worry! This is not common and there are plenty of things we can do to try and prevent this outcome.
Start by having children’s spines checked early and regularly! With exercises, chiropractic care and massage, you can help avoid pain or imbalances developing as children grow up.
For mature spines, or if a curvature has been there for a while, it can be really tricky to straighten out. However, we can often help decrease pain and increase flexibility!
The good news is most people with scoliosis live a perfectly normal, full life doing all the activities they love. But remember: Prevention is always better than cure. Just like when a tree starts to sprout, discovering problems early can encourage good growth. Help your body blossom and grow into a mighty oak 🌳!!!