Doctors and other medical professionals use a lot of long words when describing scoliosis, to the point where some patients find it difficult to know exactly what they're being diagnosed with. You probably know that scoliosis is a sideways spinal curve, but would you understand what the doctor meant if - for example - they told you that you had mild thoracic dextroscoliosis?
To help you better grasp the terminology associated with scoliosis and other curvatures of the spine, we'd like to take a moment to break that mouthful down. If you want to know what 'mild thoracic dextroscoliosis' actually means, read on...
Let's start with the easy bit. The word 'mild' indicates that, as things stand, your spinal curve is not especially severe - although it may get worse over time. A mild case of scoliosis may not be visible to the casual observer, although other symptoms may still be present.
What counts as a 'mild' spinal curve?
Generally speaking, if your Cobb angle measurement is 20 degrees or less, you can be said to have 'mild' scoliosis (bear in mind that a curve of less than 10 degrees would not be classed as scoliosis at all). Note that the word 'mild' here only refers to the angle of the curve - a person with mild scoliosis may still experience a significant amount of pain, reduced flexibility, etc.
The next word is 'thoracic', which simply means that your spinal curve is located in the upper (thoracic) part of the spine, coloured red in the diagram below.
If your curve is located in the lower part of the spine, you are said to have 'lumbar' scoliosis. When the curve encompasses vertebrae from both the thoracic and lumbar spine, that's called thoracolumbar scoliosis.
Finally, we come to the longest word of the three: 'dextroscoliosis'. This term is taken from the Latin word dexter, which simply means 'right' (as in the opposite of left); therefore, if you have a case of dextroscoliosis, you have a spine that curves to the right.
As the image above shows, scoliosis that curves towards the left side of the body is known as levoscoliosis. If you're ever struggling to remember which is which, just remember that 'levoscoliosis' and 'left' both begin with the letter L.
Now, let's put it all together...
What does 'mild thoracic dextroscoliosis' mean?
If you have mild thoracic dextroscoliosis, you have:
- A spinal curve measuring 10-20 degrees...
- ...in the upper (thoracic) part of your spine...
- ...that curves towards the right side of your body.
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