Are you born with scoliosis?

Scoliosis can potentially occur at any stage of a person's life. Some people grow up with curved spines, while others develop scoliosis in their old age. Every scoliosis sufferer's story is different.

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that there's no single, straightforward answer to the question we're discussing today: are you born with scoliosis?

Idiopathic scoliosis

By far the most common form of scoliosis is idiopathic scoliosis - that is, a sideways spinal curvature that occurs without any clear cause.

Idiopathic scoliosis usually doesn't develop until the pre-teen / teenage years, so it would be incorrect to say that one is 'born' with this type of scoliosis. However, idiopathic scoliosis is widely believed to be rooted in genetic causes, so it might be said that some people are born with the genes that will one day manifest as a progressive spinal curve.

Congenital scoliosis

While scoliosis most commonly occurs during adolescence, it is occasionally the case that a visible spinal curvature is present from birth. Babies born with scoliosis are said to have congenital scoliosis, a condition that occurs when the baby's spine doesn't develop properly in the womb. A baby with congenital scoliosis may have multiple vertebrae joined together, or one or more vertebrae that didn't form completely.

Scoliosis in later life

Even if you weren't born with scoliosis and you didn't develop a spinal curve during your teenage years, there's no guarantee that you won't be affected by scoliosis later in life. Scoliosis can occur in fully-grown adults for a number of reasons, including:

  • Asymmetric degeneration. The human body deteriorates with age, and if one side of your body deteriorates more rapidly than the other, this may result in a sideways spinal curve.

  • Osteoporosis, a loss of bone density that is most common in post-menopausal women (read about osteoporosis here).

  • Spondylolisthesis, where a vertebra slips out of place (read about spondylolisthesis here).

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we treat scoliosis in patients of all ages, from young children to people in their 60s, 70s and beyond. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please fill out our enquiry form here.

who is affected by scoliosis

Unfortunately, scoliosis can affect anyone and may occur at any time of life for a variety of different reasons. However, the condition usually develops during adolescence and the majority of sufferers are female.

No one has a perfectly straight back - everyone’s spine is a little bit curved, and this causes no problems in most cases. Scoliosis is only diagnosed when the angle of curve exceeds 10 degrees.

So who is affected by scoliosis? This condition actually affects roughly 4% of the population, making it quite a bit more common than some people realise.

Most cases of scoliosis are diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 15. During this time, most teenagers are going through a growth spurt, and this is where scoliosis tends to become more pronounced. However, it is not clear why the condition affects more women than men (although multiple theories have been put forward). As mentioned above, scoliosis can affect a range of people for a range of different reasons, such as those listed below.

severe scoliosis

Causes of Scoliosis

Idiopathic – If the patient has no other health problem that might have caused their spine to curve, then they are said to have idiopathic scoliosis. This is the most common form of scoliosis, and while the cause is not known, it is thought to stem from genetic factors.

Ageing – While the majority of scoliosis cases are diagnosed early on in life, getting older also causes your body to change quite dramatically. Deterioration of the spine with age may result in a sideways curvature.

Health Conditions

Scoliosis can sometimes be caused by other health conditions. Unfortunately, those affected by the following conditions (among others) may also be affected by scoliosis:

Birth Defects – Although it is rare, sometimes the condition is present from birth. This happens when the baby’s spine doesn’t develop properly in the womb.

Muscular Dystrophy (MD) – This is a condition where the muscles weaken over time. This is a genetic problem that may eventually cause the spine to start curving.

Marfan Syndrome – A hereditary disorder where the body’s connective tissues deteriorate. This can eventually affect the spine.

Cerebral Palsy - This condition is associated with muscle weakness, and a weakening of the muscles around the spine can lead to scoliosis.

If you are worried that you might be affected by scoliosis, our expert team would be happy to talk to you and discuss your options. To book a consultation, please click here.

Syringomyelia

While the Scoliosis SOS Clinic specialises in the study and treatment of curvatures of the spine (primarily scoliosis and hyperkyphosis), we also possess a wealth of knowledge relating to many health problems that are closely linked to these spinal conditions. One such condition is syringomyelia, a chronic illness that causes a fluid-filled cavity or cyst to form within the spinal cord.

In this post, we will discuss syringomyelia in greater detail, looking at the symptoms and exploring its connection with scoliosis.

What is syringomyelia?

Syringomyelia occurs when a syrinx (cyst) forms within the spinal cord, expanding over time and disrupting the surrounding tissue. In the majority of cases, the condition is linked to a brain abnormality called a Chiari malformation. In other cases, syringomyelia can also be caused by meningitis, tumours, and physical trauma; it can also be idiopathic (having no underlying cause, like most cases of scoliosis itself).

The condition usually takes one of three forms:

  • Congenital - In these cases, the syringomyelia is linked to an abnormality of the craniovertebral junction (e.g. a Chiari malformation).

  • Secondary - Refers to cases with no obvious cause, or those that occur due to specific known causes which have damaged the spinal cord.

  • Post-traumatic - This is used to categorise cases which result from trauma to the spinal cord.

What are the symptoms of syringomyelia?

While symptoms and their severity can vary greatly from patient to patient, some common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the back/neck/shoulders, as well as some pain or tingling in the arms and hands.
  • Muscle weakness and wasting, particularly in the arms/hands/shoulders.
  • Numbness/loss of sensation in the fingers/arms/upper chest.
  • Pain and stiffness in the legs.
  • Uncoordinated movements and involuntary muscle contractions.
  • Abnormal sideways curvature of the spine (scoliosis).

How is syringomyelia linked to scoliosis?

As mentioned above, scoliosis most often presents itself without an underlying cause. However, many cases of scoliosis arise as a result of syringomyelia - this is especially common in younger patients (syringomyelia sufferers under the age of 16 are far more likely to have scoliosis than those who develop symptoms later in life). In terms of treatment, it is considered important to treat the syringomyelia before addressing the patient's scoliosis, as this allows improvement of the syrinx to be properly assessed.

Here at Scoliosis SOS, our treatment approach is carefully considered in order to ensure that all aspects of the individual's condition are addressed. This means that our treatment courses can be specifically tailored to the needs and constraints of the patient in order to achieve the best results.

Take a look at this video case study to find out how our treatment programme helped Grace, a 15-year-old syringomyelia patient from Essex:

If you are a syringomyelia sufferer, or a former syringomyelia patient who has received treatment but is still struggling with scoliosis, please get in touch with Scoliosis SOS today. Or for any other questions you may have about anything scoliosis related, Call us on 0207 488 4428 or fill in our contact form to request an initial consultation.

Muscular dystrophy and scoliosis

While we specialise in the study and treatment of curvatures of the spine, we also possess an excellent working knowledge of other health problems that are linked to scoliosis. There are many disorders that may lead to a curvature of the spine, and one of the more severe disorders that can causes scoliosis is muscular dystrophy.

What causes muscular dystrophy?

Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a group of diseases that affect the skeletal muscles and cause them to weaken and break down. MD is a progressive condition, meaning it gets worse over time, and it often begins by affecting a particular group of muscles before then affecting the rest of your muscles more widely. 

MD is generally hereditary, and is caused by mutations of genes on the X chromosome. Each disorder is formed due to a different set of mutations, but each type of MD prevents the body from producing dystrophin - a protein that is essential for the building and repairing of muscles. Dystrophin is part of a very complex group of proteins that ensure your muscles work correctly. The protein links various components of the muscle cells together and anchors them to the sarcolemma (outer membrane). If the protein is absent or deformed, this process will not work correctly, and disruptions will occur in the outer membrane. This will weaken the muscle and damage the muscle cells themselves. 

MD can also be caused by a spontaneous mutation. This can happen when there are errors in the replication of DNA and spontaneous lesions occur due to natural damage to the DNA.

Types of muscular dystrophy 

There are many different types of muscular dystrophy, and each disorder differs in which muscles it affects, the degree of muscle weakness caused, how quickly things worsen, and when the symptoms begin.

Here are some common types of muscular dystrophy:

  • Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy - This is the most common form of MD. It generally affects boys in early childhood and is first noticeable when the child starts walking. By age 10, the child may be required to wear a brace for walking; by age 12, most sufferers are unable to walk at all. Sufferers generally do not live beyond their 20s or 30s.

  • Myotonic Dystrophy - This type of MD causes delayed relaxation of muscles, as well as muscle wasting and weakness. Myotonic MD varies in severity and affects many body systems in addition to the skeletal muscles. It can develop at any age, and life expectancy isn't always affected; however, sufferers may live shortened lives.

  • Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD) - FSHD initially affects the muscles of the face, shoulders and upper arms, then progresses slowly. It usually develops during early adulthood and isn't life-threatening, but individuals who suffer from FSHD will become severely disabled.

  • Becker Muscular Dystrophy - Becker MD is a less severe form of Duchenne MD (see above) that is caused by the production of a shortened but still partially functional form of dystrophin. It affects boys in late childhood, and individuals with this type of MD can live to reach old age.

  • Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy (LGMD) - LGMD affects the upper arms and legs of both boys and girls. A person suffering from LGMD will normally live a normal life with some assistance; however, in some extreme cases, it can cause death due to complications. 

  • Oculopharyngeal Muscular Dystrophy - This type of MD doesn't usually develop until a person is 50-60 years old. It affects the muscles of the eyelids, face, and throat, later followed by pelvic and shoulder weakness. It doesn't tend to affect the patient's life expectancy.

  • Emery-Dreifuss Muscular Dystrophy (EDMD) - EDMD usually develops in childhood or early adulthood. It starts in the hands and feet, then progresses to the arms and legs later on. Most patients will also suffer from cardiac conduction defects and arrhythmias. Most people with this condition live until at least middle age.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of muscular dystrophy are:
  • Progressive muscular wasting
  • Poor balance
  • Inability to walk
  • Breathing problems
  • Cardiac problems (due to the muscles of the heart being weakened)
  • Muscle spasms 
  • Scoliosis

The connection between MD and scoliosis

As mentioned above, one common symptom of MD is scoliosis (a sideways curvature of the spine). This happens because the muscles are no longer strong enough to support the spine, causing it to curve over time. Sadly, there is no cure for MD, but there are a range of treatments that can help with the physical disabilities and problems that develop as a result of the disorder. Medicines such as steroids are used to improve muscle strength, while ACE inhibitors and beta blockers can be used to treat heart problems. 

In addition to these medications, physical therapy can used to manage the physical disabilities that are caused by muscular dystrophy. If you suffer from scoliosis due to MD, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic can help - our ScolioGold programme is an exercise-based treatment regime that we use to help scoliosis sufferers combat their symptoms and achieve a higher quality of life.

If you would like to learn more about ScolioGold treatment and how it can help you to manage the symptoms of your condition, please get in touch with us today!

What is osteopenia, and how can it lead to scoliosis?

 
Osteopenia Bones
 
Osteopenia is a condition where the bones of the human body lose some of their density, making them more fragile and leading to an increased risk of fractures. Osteopenia often occurs naturally with age and is particularly common amongst post-menopausal women. However, there are certain things that may make you more susceptible to osteopenia:
  • Excessive drinking
  • Smoking
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Coeliac disease
  • Low BMI
  • Certain medications
Osteopenia develops gradually and has few symptoms. Many people with osteopenia don't notice the condition at all until a relatively minor impact results in broken bones, and for this reason, most cases are not diagnosed until a fracture occurs.

Osteopenia vs. Osteoporosis: What's the Difference?

If you're familiar with a condition called osteoporosis, all of the above may sound somewhat familiar. Given that both conditions are characterised by a reduction in bone density (usually occurring in later life), you may even be wondering if osteopenia is just another name for osteoporosis.
 
Well, you're half right: osteopenia is really just a milder form of osteoporosis. If you have osteopenia, your bone mass has begun to decrease, but your condition is not severe enough to be called osteoporosis. Osteopenia sometimes progresses to the point of full-blown osteoporosis, but many osteopenia sufferers remain in that transitional stage - not every case of osteopenia develops into a case of osteoporosis.
 
Both osteopenia and osteoporosis are diagnosed using something called a DEXA scan. During a DEXA scan, X-rays are used to analyse your bone mineral density; your results are then compared to a healthy person of your age and sex to find your so-called 'T score'.

What Your T Score Means

  • Higher than -1 SD: You do not have osteopenia or osteoporosis.
  • -1 to -2.5 SD: You do not have osteoporosis, but you may be diagnosed with osteopenia.
  • Lower than -2.5 SD: You have osteoporosis.

Scoliosis Among Osteopenia / Osteoporosis Patients

Reduced bone density means weaker bones, and fractures aren't necessarily the only thing that osteopenia / osteoporosis sufferers have to worry about. A spine that has been weakened by osteopenia is more likely to curve over time, and so osteopenia / osteoporosis patients are more likely to develop scoliosis (or hyperkyphosis if the spine curves forward rather than sideways) than people with a healthy bone mineral density.
 
If you suffer from a curvature of the spine - whether it's due to osteoporosis, osteopenia, or other factors entirely - please contact the Scoliosis SOS Clinic today to find out about our effective non-surgical treatment courses. Our helpful team of experts will be happy to help you with your condition. 
Book Your Appointment >