it’s just a scary word
So, what is Scoliosis?
It’s a lateral curve of the spine. It’s that simple. When you hear the word for the first time it can be quite jarring and the mind starts to race with thoughts like “what is that? what does this mean? Am I ok? Will this affect my future? Am I in danger? Why is this happening to me???!!!”
Those thoughts are totally natural if you have never heard of scoliosis before and if you have heard of it, you know that it’s one of those things that people with an untrained eye would never even notice.
You are not alone
Around 2% of the population has a lateral curve. That’s roughly 6-9 million in the United States alone. That is A LOT of people if you ask me. Less than 0.1% have spinal curves measuring greater than 40°.
Lateral curve patterns
There are two types of lateral curves. There is the ‘S’ curve and a ‘C’ curve. Knowing where and how your spine curves will be helpful in taking care of your body.
Thoracic curve – A curve located in the middle of the spine
Lumbar curve – A curve located in the lower part of the spine
Thoracolumbar curve – A curve that sort of overlaps between the lower thoracic and upper lumbar part of the spine
How some doctors group scoliosis
Greater than 10°, but less than 20° – Mild Curvature
20° to 50° – There’s just a lot of guessing and no one knows what’s up
50° and higher – Severe Curvature
70° to 90° – Disfiguring Deformity
Studies state that once someone is fully grown, scoliosis less than 30° tends to stay the same, while those curves greater than 50° can get worse over time, by about 1° per year.
When I first learned about my lateral curves, I more or less felt like I was at the most extreme end of the spectrum and that this was what all scoliosis cases were like. The reality was that my curves were bouncing around between the 40s and 50s degree of curvature. Even post surgery, the unfused curve still bopped around, increasing then decreasing in degrees of curvature.
This is the most common type and commonly diagnosed in adolescence.
cause: “no known cause”, theorized to have genetic links
A spinal curvature present at birth.
cause: a bone abnormality
A result of abnormal muscles or nerves. Examples of this type of scoliosis are in people with spina bifida or cerebral palsy.
cause: disorders of the brain, spinal cord, and muscular system
Adult scoliosis typically occurring in people over the age of 65.
cause: the deterioration of the facet joints in the back due to aging
A fresh take on lateral curves
you have been gifted with this body
I am not a professional or expert when it comes to scoliosis, but I do have it. Along with my baby sister and my uncle, we are a part of the population of people who have been confused, frustrated and uncertain by this diagnosis. What I am finding is my research is that scoliosis is not some disease, disability or abnormality as some sources may define it, but rather it is a state of the spine. Every individual has a body that is unique to them. As my yoga instructor put it during my spinal evaluation “you have been gifted with this body”. She is right, this body is a gift and it deserves to be nurtured and cared for. The most rewarding gift of the journey is that if you have been identified as having a scoliotic spine, your eyes are being opened to spinal health and how to observe and listen to your body. Congratulations! Many people don’t experience this privilege until they have serious problems.
So what is with the whole ‘abnormal’ thing? Western medicine has a habit of grouping the body into two states, normal and abnormal. It helps them attribute names to different states of the body and how to treat them. This grouping does not work well in the non-medical world. It freaks us out. It’s important to know that even though a medical book may describe something as ‘abnormal’, it is not to say that you are abnormal or that your body is ‘less than’ a seemingly ‘normal’ body.