What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis refers to a sideways curve that occurs in the spine that has an angle greater than 10o. It is not usually normal to have this type of curve. There are different types of scoliosis. This document will focus on Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (scoliosis in teenagers of unknown cause).

Is scoliosis caused by carrying heavy school bags?

A categorical no. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that adolescent scoliosis is caused by carrying heavy objects such as school bags, or by playing any particular sports.Why do people get scoliosis? The term idiopathic literally means a condition that occurs without any associated abnormality. For most children and adolescents with scoliosis a cause is never found. We do know that it is much more common in girls and that it runs in families. There is certainly a genetic tendency to develop scoliosis. This continues to be the subject of basic research. For more information see About Scoliosis on our website.

Does scoliosis affect my general health?

Scoliosis does not cause any significant problems for the rest of the body. It does not affect the way in which the nerves, the heart or other internal organs work. Thoracic curves larger than 60 degrees may have a small impact on lung function but this is not noticeable, even when exercising. Very large curves (more than 100 degrees) can cause a reduction in lung function that may limit the ability to exercise.

Why is scoliosis treated?

For thoracic scoliosis, the main reason for treatment is to improve the person’s appearance. That is, the person’s back looks bad now or is going to look bad over time. For thoracolumbar and lumbar curves the principal indication for treatment is to bring the spine back into balance with normal or near normal distribution of forces on the lower lumbar spine to minimise wear and tear changes in later life. In the lower spine, poor alignment of the discs will lead to accelerated wear. This is a bit like poorly aligned car tyres wearing out faster.

These questions and answers were reproduced from the Scoliosis Australia, ‘The most frequently asked questions of scoliosis specialists’. The full document is available at www.scoliosis-australia.org or you can download the PDF directly by following this link http://www.scoliosis-australia.org/pdfs/faq.pdf.

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