Scoliosis affects 6-9 million people in the United States. While it’s most common in children, it can develop in adults, too.
Scoliosis describes a sideways curvature of your spine that resembles the letter “S” or “C” instead of a straight line. The severity of these spinal curves varies from person to person. For some, they’re mild and need little attention. For others, the spine can curve so severely that it’s difficult to breathe.
Common signs of scoliosis include having:
- One shoulder blade that’s more prominent than the other
- Uneven shoulders, waist, or ribcage
- One hip that’s higher than the other
- A head not centered above the pelvis
- An entire body leaning to one side
Here at his office in Garden City, New York, Dr. Benjamin Cohen brings his advanced training as a spinal surgeon and neurosurgeon to diagnosing and treating complex back disorders, like scoliosis.
Dr. Cohen typically diagnoses scoliosis by performing a comprehensive physical exam that includes digital imaging, such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs. During this examination, he also determines the severity of the curve of your spine using the Cobb Method. According to this system, a spinal curvature greater than 25-30 degrees is significant. Spinal curves exceeding 45-50 degrees are severe and usually require more aggressive treatment.
Based on your diagnosis, Dr. Cohen develops a treatment strategy that takes into account several factors, such as:
- Whether your spine is still growing or developing
- The extent and degree of your spinal curvature
- The location of your curve
- The potential for your spinal curve to progress
After considering all of these variables, Dr. Cohen might recommend one of three different treatment options.
1. Watching and waiting
When children have mild cases of scoliosis with modest spinal curving, additional treatment may not be necessary. For these cases, Dr. Cohen often recommends checking for any changes or signs of progression every 4-6 months while your child is growing.
For adults with mild scoliosis, Dr. Cohen typically suggests having X-rays every five years unless your symptoms worsen.
Bracing is a common scoliosis treatment used in young people with curves between 25-40 degrees who haven’t finished growing yet. There are several different braces available that have been shown to stop the progression of scoliosis in approximately 80% of children with a diagnosis.
In most cases, these braces require a precise fit and need to be worn between 16-23 hours a day until the child finishes growing and reaches skeletal maturity. Braces aren’t effective for adults with scoliosis because the spine is no longer growing.
For spinal curves that are over 40-50 degrees and progressing, Dr. Cohen often recommends surgery. Dr. Cohen might also suggest surgery if you’re an adult who was treated for scoliosis more than 20-30 years ago before new advancements in spinal surgery were available.
The most common surgical approach for scoliosis is spinal fusion. This procedure works by joining two or more of your spine’s vertebrae together to keep them from moving independently. During this procedure, Dr. Cohen places bone or bone-like material between your vertebrae and often stabilizes the area with metal rods, screws, hooks, or wires as your bones fuse together. When performing this procedure on children who are still growing, he can install an adjustable rod that can increase in length as your child grows.
To learn more about effective treatment options for scoliosis, call our office or schedule an appointment online today.