In medical terms, the spinal cord is a thin, tubular bundle or network of nerves that act as the extension of the central nervous system. The spinal cord functions as the “transmission line” of neural messages from the brain to the rest of the body. The spinal cord is enclosed by the vertebral column, a bony structure that protects the nerves. Usually, the normal shape of the spinal cord would be an inverted ‘S.’ The bony covering of the spine also serves as a prop or structure that allows a person to stand upright and maintain over-all body balance.
Like other parts of the body, the spine is also prone to some diseases. One such disease is called scoliosis, a condition that involves the rotational and lateral curvature or deformity of the spine. According to U.S. health statistics, about 5 in 1,000 Americans have scoliosis or other spine-related problems such as congenital spine deformity, neuromuscular problems, and limb length inequality. Other ailments that are related to the spine and the central nervous system are spina bifida, cerebral palsy, spinal muscular atrophy, and muscular dystrophy. About 80% of scoliosis cases are considered as idiopathic, meaning that the cause for the ailment is unknown. Idiopathic patients are separated into four distinguished categories, all based on the age of the person. The age range for infantile idiopathic patients is three years and under; juvenile idiopathic patients would be from three to nine years old; adolescent patients would be from ten to eighteen years of age; and the adult stage starts right after the individual’s skeletal maturity, which is usually at around 24 years old. Based on current data, it is safe to say that scoliosis can run in families, which means that a person may be prone to this disease if there are close members of his family that have the said ailment.
What are the visible signs of scoliosis? A person may have this spinal deformity if he exhibits a prominent, raised hip; uneven waist; different rib cage heights; different shoulder heights; a head that is not centered directly above the pelvis; skin changes on the spine, including hairy patches, color change, and dimples; and the leaning of the entire body to one particular side.
There are also severe cases of scoliosis that may require surgery. Spinal deformities that increase in progression, curves that bring pain on a regular basis, curves affecting physiological functions such as breathing, to name a few, are the situations that may require surgical treatment. Scoliosis surgery usually entails the procedure called spinal fusion. Although not all people with scoliosis needs surgery, it is essential to have a check up with an orthopedic doctor to mitigate the effects of scoliosis. The proper alignment of the spine is not only important for one’s posture but also for the proper transmission of neural impulses that are needed for good physical coordination.