Graded on a Curve: A Closer Look at Scoliosis

Your spine is one of the most important parts of your body. It holds your body up, connects all the bones in your body, and allows you to walk, run, move, play, and do everything you do. The spine takes a lot of stress throughout the day, leading to a whole host of issues. Let’s take a look at one of the most common spinal conditions: scoliosis.
Straight as an Arrow
If you look at your friend from the side, you can see that your back isn’t flat as a board. It has natural curves between your neck and lower back, which is why “sitting straight” isn’t the best advice because it’s not exactly possible. True ergonomic furniture, like Fjords furniture, contours to your curves to give your back the support it needs—it shouldn’t be straight as a board. From behind, your friend’s spine should run straight up the center of his back.
Scoliosis, derived from the Greek word for “crooked,” is a condition wherein your back curves like a C or S. Smaller curves aren’t a problem, nor are they necessarily noticeable to the naked eye. They can, however, develop into larger curves, which can cause a great deal of discomfort.
Where’d You Get Those Curves?
No one knows what causes the most common form of scoliosis, so much so that it’s known as idiopathic—“unknown cause”—scoliosis. Doctors have found that scoliosis occurs most often during the phase of growth immediately before puberty. The main contributor to scoliosis is heredity. If it runs in your family, there’s a chance you may develop spinal deformities too.
The less common forms of scoliosis can be caused by:
• Infections and injuries in the spine
• Hampered development of the spine from birth defects
• Muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and other neuromuscular conditions
Growing Pains
Mild cases of scoliosis won’t often manifest symptoms, but the most common signs of scoliosis include:
• Uneven shoulders and waist.
• A shoulder blade that appears more prominent, creating a “hunched back” look.
• A hip that rests higher than the other.
As the spinal curve gets more severe, your backbone actually starts to rotate, forcing the ribs on one side of your body to stick out. This can lead to back pain, discomfort, and difficulty breathing.
Feeling Good, Feeling Spine
Fortunately, most public schools in the United States require scoliosis screenings. The test is simple: you bend down, reaching to the floor with straight knees while the doctor examines your back and ribs using a scoliometer to detect any rotation in your spine.
If the doctor does find that you have scoliosis, you may need to take X-rays and consult with your family doctor. Sometimes the curve isn’t serious enough to require treatment. The most common treatment for scoliosis, particularly in children, is a back brace. As kids’ bones are still growing, the brace prevents further progression of the curve.
The two main types of braces are the Milwaukee brace and the underarm brace. The Milwaukee brace is a full-torso brace that includes rests for the chin and back of the head and a neck ring. These are cumbersome and only used when an underarm brace won’t help. An underarm brace comprises plastic materials that conform to your body and wraps around your rib cage, hips, and lower back. Unlike the Milwaukee brace, this one is virtually invisible under clothes, but it won’t help curves in the neck or upper spine.
If you believe you have scoliosis, talk to your doctor or orthopedist.