Curvature of the human spine is a common occurrence originating from the fetal position maintained within the womb. Muscle and skeletal development after birth alter the original c shape, or kyphotic curve, incorporating a neck and lower back lordotic curve to support weight throughout the spine. These curves can be visualized by observing an individual from a lateral perspective.
Scoliotic Curvature of the Spine
“Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary,” describes scoliosis as a lateral bowing of the spine when observed from behind. This abnormal curvature results in twisting and rotation of the spinal vertebrae, shifting of the ribs, and neurological issues related to the compression and traction of nerve roots. Upon general observation of a patient, uneven hanging of clothing can often be noted, or one hip may appear higher than the opposite side.
Reason for Treating Abnormal Curves
According to “Essentials of Skeletal Radiology,” skeletal maturity plays an important role in the treatment plan for abnormal spinal curves. Full skeletal maturity is generally not complete until the age of twenty-two, therefore early diagnosis and prompt attention will help prevent progression of the abnormal curve and related neurological issues, since the nervous system is responsible for all cellular activity and function to ensure proper health. Treatment after full skeletal maturation shows less success than results seen in patients of adolescence years, however massage, physical therapy and chiropractic care provides mild relief.
Adolescent treatment for Spinal Curves
According to “All About Back Pain,” measuring the degree of change is the primary treatment plan until the curve exceeds 20 degrees of curvature. Routine X-ray helps determine if progression is present and further treatment must be given. If the curve exceeds the 20 degree limit, physical therapy, orthopedic bracing and surgery might be considered.
Adult Treatment for Spinal Curves
A different approach to treatment is considered when dealing with adult spinal curves. Due to full maturation of the adult spine, further growth and associated changes are less likely to occur. The exact degree measurement of the curve plays an important role in determining the care plan taken. “All About Back Pain,” under adult scoliosis, state that bracing an already mature spine shown little to no improvement with reducing the existing curve and correcting patient posture, leaving surgery as the only option, if sever neurological compromise and other health issues become present.
From what has been mentioned, the importance of treating abnormal spinal curves is to early diagnosis and monitoring for advancement in the degree of the curve. Bracing is the first method of therapy provided the skeleton has not fully matured. Surgery is definitely the last resort in both adolescent and adult spines, when all other options have been exhausted. Medical consult is highly recommended in providing the proper route of therapy needed, and to assess the neurological compromise currently taking place.
- "Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary"; Edition 18; 1993
- "Essential of Skeletal Radiology"; Second Edition; Terry R. Yockum; Lindsay J. Rowe; 1996
- "All About Back Pain"; Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis