What is Mild Scoliosis?
According to the Mayo Clinic, scoliosis is a sideways curve of the spine that is abnormal as compared to the regular anatomical curvature of the spine.
Scoliosis is usually diagnosed when children are between 10 and 19 years old, but can be diagnosed at any age. Most cases are what is called idiopathic meaning that there is no medical reason why the scoliosis started.
Few cases are related to other diseases including cerebral palsy or congenital issues.
There are 3 levels of scoliosis that include mild, moderate and severe. The main difference between those three types is the degree of the curvature of the spine.
Mild scoliosis means that the curve measures over 10 degrees but less than 25 degrees. People that have mild scoliosis are not likely to have disease progression if their curvature is less than 20 degrees.
Moderate scoliosis means the curvature of the spine is greater than 25 degrees but less than 40 degrees.
Severe scoliosis means that the curvature of the spine is greater than 40 degrees. These are very unfortunate cases that would have many side effects.
Signs and Symptoms of Mild Scoliosis
Most of anatomical issues caused by an abnormal spinal curvature are related to the fact that the spine will likely rotate as it curves as well.
Signs of Mild Scoliosis:
1.) Uneven shoulder heights
2.) Uneven hip heights
3.) More prominent shoulder blade on one side versus the other
4.) More prominent rib cage on one side versus the other
5.) Uneven waist line including soft tissue
1.) Pain in area of curvature
2.) Possible breathing changes although rare in mild cases
4.) Muscle strain type pain
5.) Numbness in lower extremities
Is Mild Scoliosis a Disability?
It is unlikely that mild scoliosis would make you disabled when you are first diagnosed, but it certainly could. The curvature of the spine must impact a person’s productivity by at least 20% to qualify for disability.
If someone has mild scoliosis and the condition deteriorates as the person ages and this can cause more and more issues over time.
Whatever the case may be, they need to keep detailed records on how the scoliosis is impacting their daily work as a way to make a case for long-term disability benefits.
One other thing to note is that even if someone does not qualify for disability related to the degree of curvature of their spine, they might qualify due to the symptoms and related issues that the scoliosis can cause including pain and respiratory issues.
Mild Scoliosis Test
The Gold Standard for testing would be an xray but that is not always feasible right away when symptoms start or might not be indicated in all cases.
One simple way to test is called the “Adam’s Forward Bend Test”. Your doctor or screener will ask you to lean over.
They will look at your spine from the back to see if there is an abnormal bump or hump that would indicate scoliosis. This simple test can start the process of diagnosing the condition.
Can Mild Scoliosis Cause Pain?
Yes certainly there can be pain associated with scoliosis. Our spine is meant to be in the natural curvature for optimal function.
If it deviates from that including a change like scoliosis, the muscle, bones, ligaments and nerves are not working in their intended way and this can cause pain.
A curvature of the spine could cause pinched nerves which can cause localized and diffuse pain. A curvature of the spine could also cause muscle pain and tightness.
Will Scoliosis Get Worse with Age?
Any case of scoliosis can get worse with age. Most commonly, if the curve is less than 20 degrees, progression is not likely, but again, it could happen.
You should work with your doctor once diagnosed to get plans in place to prevent progression. This might include a referral to a chiropractor or physical therapist.
They can help with the alignment of the spine as well as provide exercises to prevent secondary issues. You might need a brace to prevent progression or decrease pain.
No matter the risk of progression, it is always advisable to seek out treatment as soon as possible to prevent as much progression and pain as you can.
Does Mild Scoliosis Need Treatment?
According to an article on healthline.com,
“Mild scoliosis is often managed simply with exercise, medical observation, scoliosis-specific physical therapy, and chiropractic treatment from a chiropractic scoliosis specialist.
For some people with scoliosis, yoga or pilates is also recommended to decrease their pain level and increase flexibility.”
Like we have discussed, it is imperative to start any treatment as soon as you are diagnosed to get the maximal benefits of the treatment.
While mild scoliosis is not life threatening and not as likely to progress, it is still best to get a handle on it as best you can as soon as you can to minimize all effects.
When is Scoliosis Surgery Needed?
Scoliosis surgery is not needed until scoliosis is diagnosed as severe. At that point, a surgeon would weigh the risks and benefits of surgical intervention.
In summary, mild scoliosis can have an impact on a person's day to day life, but treatments are available to minimize the symptoms and decrease the likelihood of progression of the curvature.
If you suspect you might have scoliosis, reach out to your medical provider as soon as possible.