Neuromuscular scoliosis is due to underlying neurological conditions, such as cerebral palsy, that weaken the muscles. Treatment might include bracing, physical therapy, and surgery.
Scoliosis is an abnormal curve in the spine. Neuromuscular scoliosis is one of the three primary types of scoliosis. Idiopathic scoliosis and congenital scoliosis are the other two.
Neuromuscular scoliosis results from conditions that affect the nerves and muscles. When muscles become spastic, stiff, or weak, they can’t give the spine the support it needs. And this can lead to curvature.
Treatment for neuromuscular scoliosis depends on the severity and the underlying condition but might include bracing, physical therapy, or surgery.
Not everyone with a neurological condition develops neuromuscular scoliosis. People who do might experience progressive symptoms over the years. Symptoms of neuromuscular scoliosis include a noticeable spinal curve, back pain, difficulty walking, and trouble with balance and posture. If the condition progresses or is severe, it can cause complications such as difficulty breathing.
Typically, neuromuscular scoliosis is more severe in people with conditions that prevent them from walking. It often worsens during childhood and adolescent growth spurts. Symptoms might be more noticeable during these times.
What’s the difference between idiopathic and neuromuscular scoliosis?
Idiopathic and neuromuscular scoliosis are the two primary types of scoliosis seen in children and teens.
- Idiopathic scoliosis is scoliosis without a known cause. This means that it develops on its own and is not a result of underlying conditions.
- Neuromuscular scoliosis is caused by an underlying neuromuscular condition. When someone has neuromuscular scoliosis, the curve in their spine is a complication of another condition.
A few different disorders are linked to scoliosis. Some conditions make a child more likely to develop scoliosis than others, but no condition always causes scoliosis.
Neurological conditions linked to scoliosis include:
- Cerebral palsy: Cerebral palsy causes a lack of muscle control and muscle weakness. Children with cerebral palsy can have impaired coordination, uncontrolled motion, and an inability to walk independently. The muscle weakness and lack of control can also result in poor spine support, leading to scoliosis.
- Spina bifida: Spina bifida is a condition that occurs when the spine and spinal cord fail to develop properly in the womb, leaving nerves exposed. Without a fully formed spinal column and cord, a curve can develop.
- Muscular dystrophy: Muscular dystrophy is the name for a group of conditions that cause progressive weakness in the skeletal muscles. Without muscle support around the spine, scoliosis can develop.
- Friedreich’s ataxia: Friedreich’s ataxia is a rare inherited condition that causes progressive nerve damage as a person ages. It leads to muscle weakness and causes a lack of spinal support.
- Spinal cord injuries: Injuries to the spinal cord can damage the nerves, leading to weakness and eventual curvature.
- Tumors: Spinal cord tumors can press on nerves, causing damage, weakness, and curvature.
There’s no cure for neuromuscular scoliosis, but treatment can help prevent the curvature from getting worse. It can also help reduce symptoms, such as pain, and reduce the risk of complications, such as breathing difficulties.
The treatment for neuromuscular scoliosis depends on the severity and the underlying condition. Options include:
- Bracing: Bracing can support the spine and prevent curvature from worsening during childhood growth.
- Adaptive tools and aids: Adaptive tools, including wheelchair modifications and other aids that can be used in everyday life, are often helpful for people with neuromuscular scoliosis.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help improve areas such as strength, balance, and stability.
- Surgery: Spinal fusion surgery is an option for people with neuromuscular scoliosis. This surgery involves using metal rods and other special tools to straighten and stabilize the spine to correct the curve.
Spinal fusion surgery often has good outcomes and can improve the quality of life for children and adults with scoliosis who have it, but it’s not a cure for the condition. Surgery can stabilize the spine, prevent the curvature from worsening, and correct curvature, but it won’t make the spine completely straight.
Neuromuscular scoliosis is a type of scoliosis resulting from an underlying neurological condition that affects the nerves and muscles. It occurs when the underlying condition weakens the muscles that support the spine or the nerves that affect muscle control. This lack of support from surrounding muscles can lead to spinal curvature.
Treatment for neuromuscular scoliosis depends on the severity and the underlying condition but might include physical therapy, bracing, or surgery.
Treatment won’t cure neuromuscular scoliosis, but it can help manage symptoms, prevent complications, and stop spinal curvature from worsening.