Scoliosis refers to sideways curves in the spine and there is often also a rotation in the spine, affecting about 3% of the population. It may be in the Thoracic or Lumbar spine or in both. The appearance is of an S or C shape or the reverse of those. The scoliosis may be a structural one or a functional one. The latter one may have occured due to a temporary condition such as a prolapsed or "slipped" disc in which the person is holding themselves in a way to try to reduce the pain. The structural one is fixed. The majority of scoliosis have no obvious cause although there may be genetic and environmental factors, about 15% are congenital ie present from birth, due to a malformation in the womb and 10% are secondary to a neuromuscular condition.
There are degrees of scoliosis, and mild or even moderate ones do not usually need surgery although they should be monitored in case they worsen especially in children. They may benefit from bracing and exercises, especially if they are still growing. Severe ones may need surgery because they can affect the functioning of the heart and lungs and severely restrict mobility.
Some signs may be noticeable such as more pronounced musculature on one side of the spine. There may be a prominence of the ribcage or shoulder blade on one side due to a rotation in the thoracic spine. This may be more noticeable when the person flexes forward to touch the floor. There may be back, shoulder, neck and buttock pain and restricted mobility.
Scoliosis often appears or worsens during adolescence without any obvious cause. Some conditions such as Cerebral Palsy and Muscular Dystrophy may cause secondary scoliosis. There are other conditions which are associated with scoliosis such as Marfans Disease and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. There is also degenerative scoliosis which occurs later in life due to collapsing of bones in the spine such as with Osteoporosis and weakening of ligaments and discs.
An Osteopath will look out for Scoliosis and may refer you on in moderate to severe cases if it has not been picked up before. Many people live with a scoliosis without any pain and discomfort. It will not usually prevent you from having osteopathic treatment. It may help you to follow an exercise plan to limit any restrictions and discomfort where possible.