Scoliosis

Can medical cannabis help people with this condition? Find out more below. 

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a medical condition that causes an abnormal curvature of the spine. Normally, the spine has a natural curve, but in scoliosis, the curve is exaggerated and can develop into a C or S-shaped curve. Scoliosis can occur at any age, but it usually starts during adolescence. It can cause pain, discomfort, and mobility issues, depending on the severity of the curvature. 

There are different types of scoliosis, such as congenital scoliosis, neuromuscular scoliosis, and idiopathic scoliosis. While some cases of scoliosis are mild and don’t require treatment, others can be severe and may require medical intervention.

What causes it?

The causes of scoliosis are not always clear. In some cases, scoliosis is caused by a birth defect or a genetic condition that affects the development of the spine. Neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, cause other cases. However, the most common type of scoliosis is idiopathic scoliosis, which means there is no clear cause. Researchers believe there may be a genetic component to idiopathic scoliosis, but the exact cause is still unknown.

How common is it?

Scoliosis is relatively common, affecting about 2-3% of the population. It is more common in girls than boys and usually develops during adolescence. While some cases of scoliosis are mild and don’t require treatment, others can be severe and may require medical intervention. Treatment options for scoliosis include bracing, physical therapy, and surgery.

Are there types/stages?

There are different types and stages of scoliosis. The most common type is idiopathic scoliosis, which is further divided into three categories based on the age of onset: infantile, juvenile, and adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. 

Infantile idiopathic scoliosis occurs in children under the age of three, juvenile idiopathic scoliosis occurs in children between the ages of three and nine, and adolescent idiopathic scoliosis occurs in children between the ages of 10 and 18. The severity of scoliosis is measured in degrees and classified into mild, moderate, and severe categories based on the degree of curvature.

Signs & Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of scoliosis vary depending on the severity of the curvature. Mild cases may not have noticeable symptoms, while more severe cases can cause pain, discomfort, and mobility issues. Some common signs of scoliosis include uneven shoulders, a prominent shoulder blade, an uneven waist, or a tilt in the pelvis. In severe cases, scoliosis can cause breathing difficulties, fatigue, and reduced lung capacity.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Doctors diagnose scoliosis through a physical exam and imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI scans. Mild cases may not require treatment, while more severe cases may require bracing or surgery. Physical therapy can also help manage scoliosis by improving strength and flexibility.

The treatment options for scoliosis depend on the curvature’s severity and the patient’s age. Mild cases of scoliosis may not require treatment, while more severe cases may require bracing or surgery. Physical therapy can also help manage scoliosis by improving strength and flexibility.

Bracing is a common treatment option for scoliosis in children and adolescents who are still growing. Bracing works by applying pressure to the spine to prevent the curvature from worsening. The type of brace used depends on the location and severity of the curvature. Bracing is typically recommended for patients with a curvature between 25-40 degrees.

Surgery may be necessary for patients with severe scoliosis or those whose curvature is worsening despite bracing. The goal of surgery is to straighten the spine and prevent the curvature from getting worse. Surgery may involve spinal fusion, in which metal rods and screws are used to straighten the spine and fuse the affected vertebrae together.

Physical therapy can also help manage scoliosis by improving strength and flexibility. A physical therapist can develop an exercise program tailored to the patient’s specific needs. The exercises may focus on strengthening the core muscles, improving flexibility, and correcting posture.

In addition to these treatments, patients with scoliosis may also benefit from pain management techniques such as heat therapy, massage, and acupuncture. Pain medication may also be prescribed to help manage pain associated with scoliosis.

Can medical cannabis help?

There is some evidence to suggest that medical marijuana may help manage some of the symptoms of scoliosis. Cannabis contains compounds called cannabinoids that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates pain, inflammation, and other processes. Some studies have found that medical marijuana can effectively reduce pain and improve the quality of life for patients with chronic pain conditions. 

One study published in the Journal of Pain Research in 2020 looked at the effectiveness of cannabis-based medicine in managing pain and other symptoms in patients with scoliosis. The study included 22 patients with scoliosis who were given a cannabis-based medicine that contained both THC and CBD. The researchers found that the cannabis-based medicine effectively reduced pain and improved the patient’s quality of life.

Another study published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine in 2018 looked at the use of medical marijuana for chronic pain management in a group of patients with various conditions, including scoliosis. The study included 204 patients who were given medical marijuana for pain management over a period of six months. The researchers found that medical marijuana effectively reduced pain and improved the patient’s quality of life.

More studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of medical marijuana in managing scoliosis symptoms and the potential risks and benefits. It is important to consult a healthcare provider before using medical marijuana to manage any medical condition.

Last Updated: July 25, 2023

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