I have been in practice for near 26 years now. As time goes by I continue to learn not only from the books, but also from the experience of treating patients. I have noticed over the last few years how many patients suffer from scoliosis and how much it continues to advance.
This is partly because I have been treating more of this terrible disease than I have in the past. I am still baffled by the number of advancing cases of this abnormal curve pattern I see in both adolescent, young adult and the older adult as well.
Conventional knowledge when I was first out of school was that scoliosis was: a) a problem only for adolescent children or younger, and b) did not advance once skeletal maturity was reached which is for most children by age 16 or a little older.
Now let's fast forward to present time. Research has revealed that over the age of 30, scoliosis can advance with 25 to 30 degrees the risky amount of curve. The rate of progress is about 1 to 3 degrees per year, although I have seen much worse. Recently I saw a 60-year-old man advance from only 9 degrees to 22 degrees in about 6 years. Another surprise was a 23-year-old woman who advanced from 33 to 54 degrees in 8 years, do the math she was 15 when her last x-ray was taken.
She probably never stopped, although theoretically she was supposed to. Fortunately it appears there is help for both of these individuals.
The other newer finding is “Scoliosis de Novo,” a new scoliosis! As our spines wear out, (degenerate as in degenerative disc disease) the wear can become asymmetric, more on one side, and the spine will tip to one side. As time goes on and the discs continue to wear and the bones may soften the curve progresses. Patients will not always notice they stand crooked because they adapt slowly to the change. Now they have scoliosis as an adult but never as a child.
Like any other ailment, disease or disorder of the body, the earlier it is detected and dealt with the better it will turnout.
Here are some ways to watch for scoliosis.
In a child, unlevel shoulders, a rib hump or ribs that stick out especially when bending forward, standing turned to one side. This should be especially watched during growth spurts or if there is a family history. In adults constant back pain that is new or won't respond to typical treatment is a sign but also look at the way you stand, if you are losing height or standing crooked then get checked.
Last point, if you want the right type of screening the professional checking you needs to use a scolio-meter to measure your ribs with. A double curve, one in the mid back and the other in the low back, can cancel each other out and be very hard to see. These are typically aggressive curves and need to be addressed.
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