When I was in my teens, I would often appear in local commercials. As you can imagine, I was very critical about my looks and I would notice everything- a pimple about to popup when my hair got too dry when my posture wasn’t right. Needless to say, like most teens my age, that worsened by insecurities about my body.
Right before I turned 16, I was lucky enough to join the cast of a really big local show. To promote the show, I found myself traveling constantly from town to town. All the while, my body became progressively more off-kilter and I suffered from intense back pain, which just made it harder to be away from home.
Because of the pain, I started losing concentration and my agent and fellow castmates soon started noticing it. Upon visiting the doctor’s office after dealing with the pain for weeks, I discovered that I had adolescent idiopathic scoliosis; a condition that I later learned affects approximately 5% of the population.
Scoliosis you say? What exactly is it?
Scoliosis is a fairly common condition that causes the spine to bend in a C or S shape rather than remaining straight. The human spine is made up of small little bones-not a single long one as the tern backbone might suggest. These small tissues are connected by a form of elastic tissue that is referred to as cartilage.
It is because of cartilage that you can bend, balance, stretch and walk. Although the human back is naturally curved to allow bending and movement, scoliosis develops when the spine bends abnormally or more than it should. Scoliosis can go unnoticed for years but it can gradually worsen over time leading to extreme back pain and other health problems.
Scoliosis affects both adults and children but it primarily starts to show during puberty. Doctors are unsure why scoliosis develops in children, which is why it is referred to as idiopathic. However, some studies claim that it is partially genetic.
One thing is for sure though- if it is not treated or monitored as the child is growing, it can worsen causing intense back pain as well as respiratory issues. So what if you or someone you know has scoliosis? Here are some things that you ought to do once a diagnosis is given:
Do nothing but wait
As mentioned above, scoliosis can go unnoticed for years. Even in children who have it, nothing more is typically required than watching the condition closely. If the curve is mild, some children go on to have normal adult lives without the condition worsening or limiting them in any shape or form.
Contrary to popular belief, scoliosis does not make one fragile. Children with scoliosis can still carry out physical activities, play sports, exercise, and so on. This is because the spine may be slightly curved, but the small bones that form the vertebrae are still strong and able to withstand most things.
Find a team that you can rely on
Although your normal GP or family doctor is still essential, you are going to want to rely on the services of a scoliosis specialist. A specialist will have spent a huge portion of their career studying all about spinal health and he or she can help you manage the condition as well as create a medical plan that will suit your needs.
Although scoliosis is a reasonably common condition, no two cases are alike and your treatment should be customized to you. The right doctor will be attentive to your needs, listening to your fears and concerns; so you must find the right team.
Get a brace
For those that suffer from moderate curves, a brace may be necessary. An external torso scoliosis brace is usually utilized to prevent scoliosis from worsening as growth spurts occur. The more one wears a scoliosis brace, the less the curvature worsens.
For the brace to work, a patient has to comply with the recommendations and guidelines given by a physician. Additionally, the brace must be worn before growth stops occurring, which means that it does not work in adults, as the bones usually have stopped growing at this stage.
Opt for surgery
Surgery for scoliosis is usually a last resort but is one of the most effective ways to deal with severe curvature. Surgery consists of placing rods, screws, and an array of other tools for straightening the spine. These straightening tools are then covered with small pieces of bone acquired from the patient, a cadaver or a combination of both so that the spine can fuse in a vertical position.
While scoliosis surgery is considered major surgery, people that have gone through it report relatively low rates of complication. Whether the surgery will succeed or not depends on the severity of the curve as well as where on the spine the surgery was carried out.
Consider exercise therapy
Anyone that is looking for a non-surgical option to treat their scoliosis should try exercise therapy. The therapy could involve stretching exercises to improve flexibility, strengthening exercises and breathing techniques. Though it might be difficult at first, exercise therapy can help you feel more empowered and give you more control over your body.
If you have scoliosis, try and learn as much as you can about the condition. Not only will the information help you to prepare adequately, but it will also help you avoid making drastic decisions such as spine surgery. The last thing you want to do after being diagnosed with scoliosis is to make any rash decisions as it is rarely the best action.
Scoliosis may be serious in some folks but in many cases, it does not pose an immediate risk to the patient. Therefore, take some time to learn about your particular curve, as well as any treatment options that may be available to you. For mild and moderate curves, surgery is typically the last resort unless your doctor recommends you otherwise, of course.