What is it, how to look for it, and what can be done?
What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine most commonly recognised in adolescence, usually seen between the ages of 10-15.
The incidence of scoliosis is higher in females and the overall prevalence is about 3% of the population. The most common type of scoliosis making up 80% of all cases is idiopathic scoliosis meaning the condition has arisen spontaneously and without cause.
How do we identify scoliosis?
The easiest way to visually identify a scoliosis is to stand behind the person and observe;
1. Uneven shoulders or one shoulder blade sticking out or sitting higher
2. One hip is sitting higher
3. The ribcage on one side sits higher when the person bends forward
4. The waist is uneven
5. The head is not centred over the pelvis
6. A weight bearing X-Ray can be done to measure the degree of curvature known as the cobb angle. Mild cobb angle is 10-20 degrees, significant is 25-30 degrees and a severe cobb angle exceeds 45 degrees.
7. Pain is usually not a sign of scoliosis
Treatment & Physiotherapy
Depending on severity treatment in mild to moderate scoliosis will consist of strengthening specifically about the trunk. Stretching and range of motion exercises of lumbopelvic muscles and joints. In severe case bracing may need to be considered and occasionally surgical management is required.
Early detection and continued surveillance during adolescent years with the input of the physiotherapy and medical team is considered gold standard.
Although 90% of detected scoliosis are considered mild and require only minimal intervention, they still require assessment, monitoring, and awareness of treatment options at the point the scoliosis is first noticed.