What is Scoliosis ?
Everyone's spine has natural curves.
Normal healthy spines curve in and out to provide a stable support for a person's body weight against gravity. In some cases the spine begins to curve laterally and may even rotate or "twist." This condition of side-to-side spinal curves is called scoliosis. On an x-ray, the spine of a person with scoliosis looks more like an "S" or a "C" than a straight line. Some of the bones in a scoliotic spine also may have rotated slightly, making the person's waist or shoulder blades appear uneven. One shoulder blade may protrude more than the other.
Scoliosis is a descriptive term and not a diagnosis. In more than 80% of the cases, a specific cause is not found and such cases are termed idiopathic meaning "of undetermined cause." This is particularly true among the type of scoliosis seen in adolescent girls. Conditions known to cause spinal deformity are congenital spinal column abnormalities, neurological disorders, genetic conditions and a multitude of other causes. Scoliosis does not come from carrying heavy things, athletic involvement, sleeping/standing postures, or minor lower limb length inequality.
Determining whether or not you have scoliosis is best done by a physician who performs a physical examination of your back. The exam is done with you standing in a relaxed position with your arms by your sides. The physician will view you from behind looking for curvature of the spine, shoulder blade asymmetry, waistline asymmetry and any trunk shift. You will then bend forward at the waist and the physician will view your back once again to look for the rotational aspect of the scoliosis in the upper part of the back (rib prominence) or in the lower part of your back (flank or waist prominence). Following this simple examination, the physician will usually order x-rays of the spine viewed from the back and side to see the entire spine from the neck to the pelvis. If scoliosis is present, the physician will measure the x-rays and provide you with a numerical value, in degrees, to help describe the scoliosis. If curve(s) are less than 20 degrees, the general rule of thumb is to watch and wait.