What Is Adolescent Scoliosis?
Adolescent scoliosis is a curvature of the spine in young people aged 11- 17. Usually the curvature measures ten degrees or more.
Vertebrae make up our spines. Each separate vertebrae is connected via discs and tissues which can become damaged.
For medical clarity each section of the spine is named:
⇒ Cervical is vertebrae in the neck (nothing to do with the cervix in women)
⇒ Thoracic vertebra is in the chest
⇒ Lumbar vertebrae is in the lower back
⇒ Sacral vertebrae is just above the tail bone
⇒ Adolescent scoliosis is curvature of the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae.
To reach a diagnosis, doctors must first rule out any possible cause of the scoliosis, such as injury. This is why the term ‘idiopathic’ is often included in its name - Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis. Idiopathic simply means the cause is unknown. Idiopathic is also used to describe illnesses such as epilepsy and anaphylaxis where the cause cannot be found.
What Causes Adolescent Scoliosis?
Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common cause in adolescents, meaning doctors simply don’t know why it happens, but medical research is uncovering issues with melatonin production, skeletal or muscular abnormalities, protein dysfunction, nerve issues and connective tissue problems.
Is It Serious?
Yes. Left untreated adolescent scoliosis can become serious both physically and mentally.
It’s a painful condition that may lead to reduced bodily function. This happens because the body’s curvature reduces the internal space available for organs to function correctly, such as the heart and lungs. It can also press on nerves and connective tissues, leading to loss of sensation and a reduced ability to move.
On top of this teenagers may develop a bad self image leading to depression and a lack of self worth.
What Is Pulmonary Function?
Pulmonary function is the medical term for breathing. Tests measure how efficiently lungs breath in air, how well they exhale, and how much oxygen is transferred into the blood. Folk with scoliosis can find their bent position impacts on their breathing because their lungs are under pressure and take in less oxygen.
What Does Research Show?
Latest research has show that certain exercise therapy can improve breathing in adolescent scoliosis patient.
Over 24 hours 36 adolescent scoliosis patients with an average age of 13, completed specific exercises. These patients had never received scoliosis surgery and weren’t undertaking any other kind of treatment.
The exercises used in the research were taken from Schroth, a treatment program aimed at scoliosis patients which aims to improve posture, reduce pain and hold back curve progression. Other aspects include mobilisations and daily living activities.
And The Results?
The exercise therapy program had a positive outcome on breathing, chest expansion and trunk rotation angle - that’s the patient body position. Researchers described the outcome as a ‘highly significant improvement’
This is great news for adolescents’ quality of life because scoliosis is painful and currently requires surgery or bracing. More long term studies are required but this at least is a non-invasive, surgery-free step in the right direction.