The spine has natural vertical curves. However, some people’s spines also curve laterally, or side to side, creating an “S” or a “C” shape. This abnormal curvature, which typically appears during the growth spurt prior to puberty, is called scoliosis. While many cases are mild, the condition can lead to severe spinal deformities. Our Long Island orthopaedic spine surgeon, Dr. Daniel Choi, offers a variety of scoliosis treatments to correct the curve and stop it from progressing.
The Symptoms of Scoliosis
Often, scoliosis in younger patients isn’t painful, though some patients do experience debilitating pain. Scoliosis is commonly discovered during routine screenings at school or medical exams.
The signs and symptoms of scoliosis include:
- Visible curving of the spine to one side (generally to the left in the lower back and the right in the upper back)
- One leg looking shorter than the other
- One shoulder looking higher than the other
- Uneven hips
- Poor balance
- Abnormal walking gait
- Difficulty sitting or standing for prolonged periods
What Causes Scoliosis?
The most common type of scoliosis is adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, which occurs in children and teenagers ages 10 to 18. Idiopathic means the cause is unknown, though scoliosis does tend to run in families, so there are likely hereditary factors. Scoliosis can also be diagnosed in younger children, and when this happens, it’s referred to as juvenile idiopathic scoliosis.
Scoliosis that occurs in adults is known as degenerative scoliosis. It’s caused by degenerative conditions, such as osteoporosis, degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis.
How is Scoliosis Diagnosed?
Discussion With Dr. Choi
Dr. Choi will start your consultation by talking with you or your child about the symptoms. He’ll also collect a full medical history.
Next, Dr Choi will perform a comprehensive physical examination. He’ll assess your or your child’s spine for any visible curvature.
Dr. Choi will order an x-ray. The x-ray will give him a clear picture of the spine in order to confirm the diagnosis. It also lets him determine how severe the condition is.
If you’re one of our Long Island scoliosis patients whose condition is mild, you may not need treatment. In these cases, Dr. Choi will have you come in for periodic exams so he can monitor you and ensure the condition isn’t progressing.
If Dr. Choi diagnoses you with a more severe form of scoliosis, or if the scoliosis progresses over time, there are two main treatment options available:
- Braces – For children or teenagers whose bones are still growing, a brace can help to prevent the curve from progressing. The brace is worn day and night, but since it can allow your child to avoid surgery, it’s worth the commitment. The good news is, the modern scoliosis braces we use at our practice are more comfortable, form to the body, and aren’t visible or bulky under clothes.
- Surgery – For severe scoliosis, Dr. Choi may recommend a type of spinal fusion surgery. During the procedure, he will connect the affected bones with a metal rod. This will reduce the severity of the spinal curvature by holding the spine in place until fusion occurs, which is when the bones mend together. It also prevents the curvature from getting worse.