Scoliosis is the medical term that describes the abnormal twisting and curvature of the spine. It occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty. It affects around three to four children in very 1,000 in the UK and is most typically seen in children between the ages of 10 and 15. It is also more common amongst females than males. It is much more than a simple curve to the side but a 3 dimensional deformity requiring specialist therapy and when appropriate, orthotic interventions.
In 8 out of 10 cases there is no known cause; this is known as idiopathic scoliosis. The majority of the rest of cases are caused by medical conditions: such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and Marfans syndrome.
Scoliosis may first be noticed by a change in the appearance of a child’s or later on-set in an adults back. Visual symptoms can include:
- A visibly curved spine
- One shoulder higher than another
- A difference in leg length
- A prominent rib cage / ‘rib hump’
- One shoulder or hip being more prominent or tilted than the other
When attending the first consultation appointment you will need to bring with you a recent X-ray of your spine. The existence of scoliosis is established by measuring the Cobb angle of the spinal curves. The Cobb angle was first described in 1948 by Dr John R Cobb, an American orthopaedic surgeon. A Cobb angle of 10 is regarded as the minimum angulation to define scoliosis.
To establish the severity of an individual’s scoliosis we use a state-of-the-art DIERS spinal scanner. This provides a static optical measurement of the human back. It is radiation-free and operates without contact with the skin. In addition a scoliometer is used to measure the angle of trunk rotation.
Mild cases of scoliosis may self-correct as a child grows, though we may also recommend using ‘dynamic’ lycra garments which are designed to apply a global compression to the area of the body over which it is worn. However it is important that any existing curvature is monitored closely to check progression particularly during periods of rapid growth during puberty.
For more serious cases (Cobb angles in excess of 20 degrees) we have established a non-surgical evidence based treatment package which incorporates the Gensingen© brace and a comprehensive Schroth method physiotherapy programme.