Around 1 in 30 Americans experience some degree of scoliosis. It is both the most common spinal deformity as well as the least predictable one, seeing as we are still unsure of what causes almost 80% of cases. However, with recent medical advancements, treatment allows the majority of people with scoliosis to heal and continue living normal, healthy lives.
Continue below to learn more about scoliosis and see why, this June, it is time to spread awareness, knowledge, and motivation to fight for a future without scoliosis.
What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is an unnatural curvature of the spine. While most people have a straight spine that runs vertically, people with scoliosis can be described as having a “C” or “S” shaped spine. Rare cases of scoliosis occur during pregnancy or during a baby’s first few years due to a congenital issue.
However, more often than not, scoliosis develops between ages 10 and 15, during a child’s largest and most transformative growth spurt. In some cases, is not uncommon for scoliosis to also develop in otherwise healthy adults, especially those who have had back problems or scoliosis in the past. It is crucial to try and diagnose scoliosis as soon as possible to start corrective treatment before your condition worsens.
Contrary to popular belief, there is very little that can be done to prevent scoliosis. Some parents believe that their children may be at risk if they carry heavy backpacks, have poor posture, or get injured while playing sports. However, while scientists are still unsure as to what causes most cases of scoliosis, we are certain that factors such as these in no way increase the chances of seeing this disorder.
Warning Signs and Treatment
Speak with your doctor if you or your child experiences any of the following:
- any natural humps or bumps along the back or rib cage
- an uneven appearance in the hips or shoulders when standing straight
- shoulders that appear to be different heights
- one hip that protrudes further than the other
- back pain or an inability to get comfortable while sitting/standing
Simple tests like the Adam’s Forward Bend Test (often administered in elementary school during physical exams) can easily diagnose most forms of scoliosis. MRIs and CT scans can also be used for more certain results.
Should you need care for your scoliosis, treatment is better now than its ever been. Around 90% of scoliosis cases are mild and only need observation. For spinal curves less than 30-40 degrees, both nighttime bracing and full-time bracing can help to readjust your spine without surgery. If bracing fails or spinal curvature shifts to more than 45-50 degrees, surgery (involving either minor vertebral fusion or spinal rods) is now less invasive and has a higher success rate than ever before.
Qualifying for Disability Benefits with Scoliosis
In very severe cases of scoliosis, treatment may prove ineffective or still leave a person disabled. Things like cooking, cleaning, traveling, or working may become difficult tasks that can’t be accomplished without pain or discomfort. If your scoliosis causes you similar problems, it is recommended that you look into applying for Social Security disability benefits. This program is designed for US residents who are unable to work or care for themselves due to their severe condition.
Severe scoliosis can qualify for these benefits under Section 1.04 - “Disorders of the Spine” in the Social Security Blue Book. Here, it states that applicants must have one of the following to qualify:
- narrowing of the spine that causes immobility, weakness, or impedes your ability to walk,
- inflammation of the spinal membrane that prevents normal mobility and/or causes chronic pain,
- nerve root compression in the spine that causes weakness, pain, and/or limits mobility
To compare your diagnosis with this listing, you can speak with your physician to analyze your condition. You can also receive tests (or redo old ones) such as MRIs, CT scans, mobility tests, or general physical exams to provide up-to-date information on your application. Things like medication lists, hospitalization history, and therapy session history/notes should also be compiled to include, should you decide to apply. The more information you provide, the more likely you will receive benefits for your scoliosis.
Additional Resources for People With Scoliosis
No matter where you live, there are always resources available (both in person and online) to help you with your diagnosis. The Scoliosis Research Society is the largest US organization dedicated to helping patients find the support and specialized care they require throughout the process. Social Security disability attorneys can also assist you, should you be interested in getting financial help. Disability attorneys provide free consultations and do not charge unless you win your disability case.