Four out of five cases of scoliosis are idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown. While idiopathic scoliosis tends to run in families, no responsible genes had been identified as of 1997. Children with idiopathic scoliosis appear to be otherwise entirely healthy, and have not had any bone or joint disease early in life. Scoliosis is not caused by poor posture, diet, or carrying a heavy bookbag exclusively on one shoulder.
Idiopathic scoliosis is further classified according to age of onset:
- Infantile. Curvature appears before age three. This type is quite rare in the United States, but is more common in Europe.
- Juvenile. Curvature appears between ages 3 and 10. This type may be equivalent to the adolescent type, except for the age of onset.
- Adolescent. Curvature appears between ages of 10 and 13, near the beginning of puberty. This is the most common type of idiopathic scoliosis.
- Adult. Curvature begins after physical maturation is completed.
Causes are known for three other types of scoliosis:
- Congenital scoliosis is due to congenital abnormal formation of the bones of the spine, and is often associated with other organ defects.
- Neuromuscular scoliosis is due to loss of control of the nerves or muscles which support the spine. The most common causes of this type of scoliosis are cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy.
- Degenerative scoliosis may be caused by degeneration of the discs which separate the vertebrae or arthritis in the joints that link them.
Scoliosis causes a noticeable asymmetry in the torso when viewed from the front or back. The first sign of scoliosis is often seen when a child is wearing a bathing suit or underwear. A child may appear to be standing with one shoulder higher than the other, or to have a tilt in the waistline. One shoulder blade may appear more prominent than the other due to rotation. In girls, one breast may appear higher than the other, or larger if rotation pushes that side forward.
Curve progression is greatest near the adolescent growth spurt. Scoliosis that begins early on is more likely to progress significantly than scoliosis that begins later in puberty.
Chiropractors can help alleviate the symptoms associated with this condition and provide a better quality of life. By analyzing the pain generators, imbalances and perpetuating factors, we will help the patient to better understand their condition and provide relief. Braces are sometimes utilized to attempt to correct the abnormal curvature as well as surgery in extreme circumstances.