Dangerous Curves

by Dr. James Bogash

Everybody’s spine naturally curves in a front-to-back fashion, which can be seen in the normal rounding of the shoulders and the depression of the lower back. However, up to 20% of the adult population suffers from scoliosis – an abnormal curvature of the spine often characterized by an “S”-shaped, side-to-side deformity. Many people with abnormal spinal curvature never suffer any symptoms, but for others, the curve gets worse over time and causes pain, limits normal activities and complicates breathing and circulation. How do these people with spinal degeneration perceive their health?

In a recent study, approximately 50 adults with scoliosis completed general health questionnaires and received a clinical and diagnostic evaluation. Patients were further analyzed in two groups, based on the degree of spinal curvature. Data were compared to those from the general population; from people ages 55-64; and from patients with low-back pain or hypertension.

The average age for adults with scoliosis was 63 years. Overall, general health scores of patients with adult scoliosis were significantly lower than scores in all health categories compared to the general population, and in most categories compared to the 55- to 64-year-old group and patients with back pain or hypertension. Loss of proper spinal curvature was most significantly linked to lower scores for social function, emotional well-being and general health.

Adult scoliosis is becoming a significant health problem, primarily affecting the fastest-growing segment of our society – the elderly. You can avoid the debilitating symptoms of scoliosis, however. A chiropractor can examine your spine for proper curvature and provide you with the advice necessary for maintaining a healthy back.

Reference: Schwab F, Dubey A, et al. Adult scoliosis: A health assessment analysis by SF-36. Spine 2003:28(6), pp. 602-606.