Back Health

How Scoliosis Impacts the Human Body

Most people have heard of scoliosis, or perhaps even know somebody who has it. Scoliosis is a condition that often develops in childhood where the spine curves rather than appearing straight up and down. While this condition is fairly common and treatable, it’s imperative to catch it early on. That way, it won’t progress and cause further discomfort.

While mild scoliosis cases can be treated through external methods like bracing and physical therapy, more severe instances need additional medical intervention like definitive fusion or vertebral body tethering. While the condition is centralized to the spine, it can impact the body in various ways. So much depends on the backbone, from the surrounding joints to the abdominal organs. The body is interconnected — which means scoliosis can come into play all over.

The Spinal Curve

The most obvious way that scoliosis affects the human body is through the spinal curve itself. Usually, the curve will appear in the center of the spine and cause the shoulders, waist and back to appear uneven. Sometimes, one shoulder blade or hip will appear more prominent.

Scoliosis spinal curves are often referred to as either a C or an S curve based on the shape and severity. These shapes can appear subtly or much more severely, depending on each unique case. S curves are often referred to as double curves, due to the additional turn they create in the spine.

Back Pain

While this may not come as a shock, scoliosis and the spinal curve associated with it can cause back pain or even a reduced range of motion, especially if it goes untreated. While the spine is strong, it is also sensitive. If things like bad posture or sitting too long can cause back pain, an unnatural curve of the spine certainly can, too.

Some people with scoliosis don’t experience as much pain as others, and it often goes on a case-by-case basis. Usually, treatment will help relieve pain and discomfort and help bring in any range of motion that was previously missing.

The Rest of the Skeletal System

In the most literal sense, the spine is the backbone of the skeletal system, which means that even a slight curve could throw other bones and joints out of balance. Often, scoliosis patients will report pain in the neck, knees, hips, shoulders and legs. Scoliosis can also affect central bones like the ribs and cause shifts in the pelvis.

Every case is different, and the adverse effects will depend on the severity of the curvature. The stronger the curve, the more likely it is to shift other bones and joints within the body.

Digestive Issues

Although scoliosis is a condition that centralizes in the skeletal system, it can unfortunately impact organs if left untreated, especially in more severe cases. Curves in the spine can cause digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), heartburn, acid reflux and stomach pains. This is because the spinal column supports the organs that work to digest nutrients, and there are many points of contact within it.

The spine is responsible for relaying messages to and from the brain, and when that system is compromised, it can cause miscommunication. It also offers structural support and coordinating reflexes, which are all difficult to do when there is a curve.

Respiratory Issues

Similarly to how a curve in the spine can impact the digestive system, it can also affect the lungs and breathing. Scoliosis can sometimes shift the chest wall and restrict lung size, which is often called a restrictive ventilatory defect.

While this isn’t present in all cases, it’s a possibility. This is especially the case if it becomes difficult to breathe, shortness of breath is common or breathing becomes painful.

Cardiovascular Issues

Another internal organ that can suffer when the spine is curved is the heart and overall cardiovascular system. In severe cases of scoliosis, the spinal curvature can cause the ribcage to press against the heart. This can make it harder for this organ to pump and send blood to the rest of the body. Often, lung and heart issues can come together in severe scoliosis cases, though this isn’t always the case.

Fatigue

As a result of skeletal, muscular and organ strain, some people with scoliosis experience fatigue over time. While it can result from one specific complication like back pain or respiratory issues, it can sometimes occur due to a combination of multiple symptoms. Even just one malfunctioning system can cause fatigue — multiple sources at play could cause anybody to feel drained and tired.

Progression

Scoliosis is not a condition that can be left untreated. Even mild cases that can be managed with external treatment should be handled by medical professionals who specialize in spinal care.

If scoliosis is not addressed, it can cause back problems, overall skeletal dysfunction and more severe cardiovascular and breathing issues. While the type of treatment necessary will depend on the case and curve, it’s important to address scoliosis with a doctor, ideally as early as possible, so the condition can’t progress.

Treating the Curve

Regardless of the severity, it’s essential to see a physician. The earlier you catch scoliosis and find the proper treatment, the less it will progress. Nobody deserves to be uncomfortable in their spine, especially when there are so many ways to treat the curve.

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Mia Barnes

Mia Barnes is an online writer and the Editor in Chief at BodyMind.com. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Professional Writing and enjoys all things writing and literature. When she's not reading or writing, you can probably find her on a jog or traveling the world in search of inspiration.

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