The spine has some natural curves, and they are located in the cervical region (neck), thoracic region (upper and mid-back), and lumbar region (lower-back) regions. During your movements, these curves work as your body’s natural shock absorbers.
Any of the three major spinal sections can be affected by scoliosis. If a person has scoliosis, their spine forms a side-to-side “S” or “C”-shaped curve. The most frequently impacted region of the spine by scoliosis, especially in younger patients, is the thoracic spine (ribbed portion of the spine). However, it also affects the lumbar (unribbed region of the spine) region, the lower part of the spine, which is accountable for the patient’s range of motion and flexibility.
However, when it comes to thoracolumbar scoliosis, it affects both the thoracic region and the lumbar region. Dr. Surya Prakash, a senior minimally invasive scoliosis surgeon in Hyderabad, says that thoracolumbar scoliosis involves a sideways curvature of the spine that specifically affects the junction of the middle-back (lower thoracic) and lower back (upper lumbar) spinal regions.
Scoliosis affects millions of people in India. Though it is commonly observed in children of age between 10 to 15 years, it can affect anyone at any time in life.
Scoliosis is of different types and is classified based on the location it appears.
- Thoracic Scoliosis
- Lumbar Scoliosis
- Thoracolumbar Scoliosis
- Combined scoliosis
Although every person has a slight curvature in their spine, scoliosis is said to be if the sideways curvature of the spine exceeds 10 degrees. If the curvatures are small, they may not cause any problems in most cases and don’t require surgical intervention. But if the scoliosis curves are 25 to 30 degrees, which can even reach 45 to 50 degrees in severe cases, they might require treatment; otherwise, they cause pain or breathing problems.
Symptoms of thoracolumbar scoliosis
In most cases, people with scoliosis might not experience any symptoms. If symptoms appear, pain is one of the major symptoms. Pain is caused either due to an extended spinal curve or nerve compression in that area.
- Lower back pain, which often radiates down your legs
- Muscular fatigue
- Pain in both or one shoulder
- When you sit or stand for a long time, you may feel weak or fatigued in the spine
Even if you don’t experience pain, you may still have other visible body changes for thoracolumbar scoliosis. Which include:
- Shoulders that are uneven
- Uneven rib cage or waistline
- A visible bulge in the back
- Difficulty while sitting
- Your head might not positioned in line with your pelvis
- Breathing problems
- The entire body leans to one side
- One shoulder blade looks larger than the other
- Some people may even lose height
Causes of Thoracolumbar Scoliosis
There are three primary causes of any scoliosis type, which include idiopathic, congenital, and neuromuscular. Idiopathic is the most common cause, according to the Scoliosis Research Society. Nearly 80% of all scoliosis cases are idiopathic scoliosis, which means the underlying cause is unknown.
If the baby’s ribs or spine are not formed properly in the womb, it can be said to be congenital scoliosis. It means scoliosis is present at birth.
The third one is neuromuscular scoliosis, which is caused by other neurological or muscular conditions, including cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, damage to the spinal cord, spina bifida, etc.
Conditions like osteoporosis or degenerative spinal changes can put you at risk of developing scoliosis in adulthood.
Experts say that factors like asymmetric growth, cell structure changes, genetic and hormonal factors, and muscle imbalance can also contribute to this condition.
Diagnosing thoracolumbar scoliosis
The diagnostic process for thoracolumbar scoliosis is similar to other types of scoliosis diagnoses. Your doctor recommends imaging tests like X-rays after a physical examination to confirm the condition.
If the spinal curvature is more than 10 degrees, the doctor may confirm having thoracolumbar scoliosis, and if the condition affects your breathing, you may be recommended for some other tests.
Treatment for thoracolumbar scoliosis
Different types of treatment options are available for treating thoracolumbar scoliosis. But the best treatment that suits you depends on some factors, like the age of the patient, curve location, the degree of curvature, and the progression of the curve.
A careful monitor would be suggested by the doctor if the scoliosis curve is in the range of 10 to 25 degrees. If the curve progresses and is in the range of 25 to 40, they may recommend wearing a brace. Physical therapy is essential in both scenarios, and to manage pain, you may be prescribed pain medication.
In typical cases, like if the curve progresses beyond 40 degrees or the symptoms interfere with day-to-day activities like being unable to stand upright, sit and sleep, or have breathing problems, etc., doctor would recommend surgery.
A spinal fusion is the most common surgical procedure used to fix scoliosis. In this procedure, multiple vertebrae are joined or fused together with a bone graft into a single unit. The grafts can be taken from your body or from a donor.
If you are suffering from any back problems, consult Dr. Surya Prakash, one of the best spine surgeons in Hyderabad. He has more than two decades of experience as spine specialist in Hyderabad and has helped thousands of people with various spine problems, including scoliosis. Call +91 9848024699 to book your appointment with the doctor.