Type 1 Chiari Malformation

Despite the fact that there is no underlying cause for the development of scoliosis in 8 out of 10 cases, there are a number of medical conditions that can lead to a curvature of the spine.  We've discussed some of these conditions - including Marfan syndrome -  in the past, and today we'd like to talk about another: Chiari malformations.

What is a Chiari malformation?

A Chiari malfomation is a structural defect in the human brain that causes part of the cerebellum to sit below the foramen magnum. When the bony space at the lower rear of the skull is smaller than usual, the cerebellum and brain stem can be pushed downwards, affecting the function of this part of the brain. This can cause reduced muscle strength, balance problems, neck pain and dizziness, along with several other symptoms and medical issues.

How are Chiari malformations linked with scoliosis?

Spinal curvature is common among people with a type 1 Chiari malformation (CM), the most common form of the condition. In this form of CM, the lower part of the cerebellum extends into the foramen magnum without the brain stem, an opening that only the spinal cord passes through in normal circumstances. This form of CM is often left unnoticed until adolescence or adulthood, and is usually diagnosed during an examination for another condition. This means that you may already have identified your scoliosis without realising that CM is an underlying cause. 

Both a sideways (scoliosis) and forward (kyphosis) curvature of the spine can be caused by a type 1 Chiari malformation, and both of these conditions are often present in children due to the fact that their skeletons have not yet fully matured. As is the case with scoliosis itself, CMs are more commonly found in women than in men.

What treatment is available?

For sufferers of CM type 1, symptoms can usually be managed with medication. In more serious cases, skull and spinal surgery may be considered as an option to relieve pressure on the brain, or to correct a tethered spinal cord in children. To help relieve the pain and discomfort caused by spinal curvature, treatment options such as our ScoliGold method can provide lasting results without the need for surgical intervention. As with all of our patients, CM sufferers who attend a course at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic will receive a range of therapies tailored to their exact needs, relieving the symptoms of their spinal curvature while keeping their underlying medical issues in mind at all times.

For more information on how we can help to treat the symptoms of CM, please feel free to contact Scoliosis SOS today.
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