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Scoliosis in women is not only more common than in men, but women and girls are more likely to develop a severe case of the disease.
Scoliosis is when your spine curves to one side or the other. It can happen to any section of the spinal column, but most people get scoliosis that affects the lower back or the chest level. It affects between 2% and 3% of the population, and often develops during the early teenage years. Women are eight times more likely than men to reach a point where they need treatment for the condition. So why is scoliosis in women so common, and what can we do about it?
Scientists don’t truly understand the cause of scoliosis, let alone why it is more common in girls and women. The fact is that females are not only more susceptible to getting the disease, but they have a higher chance of developing severe curves from it. There’s a theory that it could be linked to the levels of leptin hormone, but that hasn’t been proved as yet.
Patients get several different types of scoliosis, which fall into three main categories of idiopathic, congenital or neuromuscular scoliosis. Idiopathic includes adolescent scoliosis, which is usually diagnosed during puberty and causes changes in the shape of a growing child’s spine. It often results in curving and twisting at the same time.
Congenital scoliosis develops in the womb and gets worse as a child grows. It’s usually spotted at a younger age, which means treatment can begin earlier. The condition is caused by abnormalities in the spine, while neuromuscular scoliosis is caused by illness or trauma. Cerebral palsy, spina bifida or injury to the spinal cord result in this condition. Patients can also develop degenerative scoliosis as their bones weaken with age.
Scoliosis treatment options depend on whether the patient is fully grown, or if the spine is still likely to change, the degree of curvature and its location, and how bad it has the potential to get. The doctor might prescribe bracing or surgery, or he might decide just to watch your progress closely and see what happens. In the case of children, doctors usually check on them every four to six months to see if the curve is increasing. In adults with a stable condition, x-rays every five years is usually enough.
This really only works in young patients with a curve of less than 40 degrees. Different types of braces work in different circumstances, which need to be worn for 16 to 23 hours a day until the child stops growing. Studies show bracing can successfully stop the curve progressing in about 80% of children.
Many women with this condition visit chiropractors to treat their scoliosis. The chiropractor manipulates the spine to realign it, which, depending on the degree of the condition, can greatly improve the quality of the patient’s life. The treatment can stop and even reverse the development of scoliosis in a child.
Doctors usually only recommend surgery for scoliosis in women with curves of more than 40 degrees that appear to be progressing, or where the patient has nerve damage, bowel or bladder symptoms. The surgeon can go through the front or the back of the body, depending on where the curve is located. Surgery has changed in recent years from a spinal fusion model, which often caused painful arthritis in the discs above and below the fusion.
Sometimes patients who were treated in childhood might need revision surgery to bring them up to date with latest developments. Older patients have a higher risk for surgery in general, as do those who smoke, have obesity and other chronic health problems.
There’s no way to prevent scoliosis from occurring, but you can prevent it from getting any worse and potentially improve your situation. Pain management, correct posture, adaptive aids, and complementary therapies can all help to keep you strong and active, which reduces your scoliosis symptoms and the condition’s impact on your life. Regular bone density tests will alert you if your bones start to weaken as you age, and a healthy diet and lifestyle will help you avoid a range of illnesses.
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