Last month in July was Scoliosis Aware Month. Just what exactly is scoliosis? iScoliosis says that scoliosis is a condition where the spine is curved, causing it to be abnormal and can affect the spines of people at many different ages. There are usually two curves, in the shape of an S, or one curve in the shape of a C. Scoliosis occurs more in girls than boys and most often is seen at the ages of 12, when they are starting to grow. Curves are categorized in different levels to determine treatment.

On MayoClinic says a curve that is about 20 degrees or less usually doesn’t need bracing, but is to be watched over to see if it gets any worse which it sometimes doesn’t. This would be considered a small curve. Moderate curves are under 50 degrees but more than 25, which requires bracing.

Bracing is a way to try to stop a curve (or curves) from getting worse than it already is. Braces cannot guarantee to stop the worsening of curves, but sometimes helps. In some cases, curves even got better. Bracing only stops a curve from progressing, its purpose is not to improve it. The most often used brace is called the Boston brace. It’s rigid and made of plastic, and has to be worn anywhere from 16 to 23 hours a day. There is also the SpineCor brace, which actually allows flexibility while wearing it. It is best for people with smaller curves though. Other braces could be the Milwaukee brace, night brace, etc.

Sometimes scoliosis can be congenital, meaning the person is born with it, but most of the it’s idiopathic (no known cause). Also, muscle problems can also relate to scoliosis as well. Scoliosis affects about 2% of the population. There is no known “cure” of scoliosis either. Some symptoms of scoliosis could be a rip hump, uneven shoulders, or one hip being more prominent than the other.

iScoliosis and SpineKids are great sites that give info on scoliosis and tell about the treatments, and much much more. It even tells stories about other patients’ scoliosis and their success with it, whether from surgery or bracing or whatever treatment they got. SpineKids also has a message board where you can talk to other people about your scoliosis and tell them about your news next time you go to the doctor’s or something happens.

Bracing is used until surgery is required or the patient stops growing. From looking at the growth on the hip bone, doctors can judge whether the patient is done maturing or not. They use the riser scale, 1 having a lot of growing left, and 5 being fully done growing. After the curves reach to 45 degrees or more, curves increase with or without bracing, the point where surgery is needed. In surgery, titanium rods are placed in the patients back to straighten the spine and aren’t taken out. Therefore limiting flexibility in that area. Doctors want the patient to grow as much as possible before surgery. After it though, the patient might gain a few inches of height from straightening of the spine. Another type of surgery is called Vertebral Stapling uses staples to try to lessen the curve and continue doing so as the patient grows. Unfortunately, it does not always work.

Scoliosis is an important thing to know about, and hopefully in the future, better treatments are made and the mysterious causes of scoliosis are found.