June is the month of rainbows and Pride. However, this fabulous month also shares June with a rarely talked about disorder: scoliosis.
What is Scoliosis?
It is the deformity of the spine which results in a curve. Most people’s spines are relatively straight. Scoliosis people have their spines curved either right or left. Their spines are either S-shaped or C-shaped. Basically, this means that a C-curve is only curved at one point, while the S-curve is double twisted. Scoliosis is measured on three levels: mild, moderate, or severe. These levels are all determined based on the curvature degree of the spine. Anything under 20 degrees is mild while anything higher than 50 is severe. Everything else is moderate.
Is Scoliosis Common?
It is fairly common. There are four types of scoliosis, but the most common is idiopathic scoliosis. This form is common among children but little is known about it. The other three forms of this disorder are well known: congenital scoliosis is a birth defect, neuromuscular scoliosis is a side effect of those who already suffer from a neuromuscular disorder, and degenerative scoliosis is found within the elderly who suffer from a narrow spinal canal.
Idiopathic, however, has no point of origin. Doctors and scientists do not know what causes this form of scoliosis other than heredity; which leads to the question of how did it get into the parent’s DNA first?
As this is a physical deformity disorder, many of the symptoms are visual. One of the most common symptoms is having a shoulder blade height or position difference. Since scoliosis goes right or left, one of the shoulder blades will even be higher than the other or stick out of the back more prominently. People can also suffer from hip differences and arm and leg height differences. Since the spine is pushing on the rib cage, the ribs may stick out too.
Is There Pain?
Most people do not suffer from physical pain. However, those with moderate (close to severe) and severe scoliosis can have pain. This pain is often located in their backs and legs. If their spine is also pushing down into their organs, they can also suffer from constipation. Those with back and leg pain mention feeling like their nerves are burning. Due to this excruciating pain, people that suffer from these symptoms often have trouble standing or sitting for long periods of time. Exercise can be difficult for those with severe scoliosis as the lungs and heart may be impacted if the rib cage is pushed in.
Scoliosis is not classified as a mental illness. However, for many (whether they suffer from pain or not), they do suffer from negative mental health due to their deformities. When scoliosis is visible on a person, they typically feel self-conscious about their looks. This can lead to poor self-esteem and depression. This condition can also lead to bullying.
Scoliosis Awareness Month
The purpose of this yearly awareness month is to shed light on this condition. According to the Scoliosis Research Society website, this month is to increase education on the topic, early testing for the condition, and bring the topic to the forefront of the public. The Awareness Month is to help educate those who may have never heard of this disorder before. A major objective of the month is to stress the need for early testing. Testing can be as simple as having a doctor slide their fingers down the spine. If they suspect the condition may get worse, X-rays will be ordered. The importance of being tested early is the hope of limiting its change until the body has stopped growing. Instead of surgery, the child would wear a back brace to try and stop the increase of the curvature. Not only is this helpful in reducing the chances of pain later in life, but also decreasing poor self-esteem and depression.
I have written this article as my way of helping to spread the awareness of scoliosis. Together, we can all help to spread the knowledge and need for testing.