What do Elizabeth Taylor, Renee Ruso, Isabella Rossellini, and Linda Blair all have in common? Aside from the obvious fact that they are popular and gorgeous celebrities, these women suffer from a back problem called scoliosis. Scoliosis is a medical condition that is characterized by the presence of curvatures and deformities in the spine. Unlike poor posture, these curves can not be corrected by simply learning to stand up straight.
Scoliosis affects a small percentage of the population, or approximately two percent. However, scoliosis runs in families. If someone in the family has scoliosis, the likelihood of an incidence is approximately 20 percent. Scoliosis in skeletally immature individuals is classified by age: infantile (0 to 3 years); juvenile (3 to 10 years); and adolescent (over 11 years, or from onset of puberty until skeletal maturity). In addition, scoliosis is classified by etiology: congenital, idiopathic or neuromuscular.
Congenital scoliosis results from embryological malformation of one or more vertebrae and may occur in any location of the spine. This is due to a problem with the formation of vertebrae or fused ribs during prenatal development. The vertebral anomalies cause curvature and other deformities of the spine and lead to differential growth. This means that one area of the spinal column lengthens at a slower rate than the remainder. Because these anomalies are present at birth, congenital scoliosis is usually detected at a younger age than is idiopathic scoliosis.
Idiopathic scoliosis refers to a spinal curve for which there is no discernible cause, and it typically occurs in children and adolescents who are otherwise healthy. It is of unknown cause, and appears in a previously straight spine.
Neuromuscular scoliosis is caused by problems such as poor muscle control or muscular weakness or paralysis due to diseases such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, and polio. It encompasses scoliotic spine deformities that are secondary to neurologic or muscular diseases. Etiologies of this type of scoliosis include cerebral palsy, spinal cord trauma, muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy, and myelomeningocele. Spinal deformities that result from neuromuscular etiologies generally progress more rapidly than idiopathic scoliosis and are more difficult to manage non-surgically.
There are several “warning signs” to determine if you or someone you love has scoliosis. If you notice any one or more of these signs, you should schedule an exam with a doctor: