How does scoliosis affect height?

Scoliosis is a common bone condition that can affect individuals of all ages, particularly those who frequently adopt poor postures. In addition to impacting physical health, scoliosis can also lead to feelings of self-consciousness due to an unappealing appearance. In this article, let’s explore with how scoliosis can affect your height and overall appearance.

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis, also known as curvature of the spine, is a condition in which the upper back is excessively curved forward (more than 45 degrees). In infants, children or adolescents, scoliosis may occur due to spinal deformities or compressed vertebral joints over time. In adults, scoliosis is usually caused by weakened spinal bones that are compressed or fractured.

Scoliosis is divided into three common types:

  1. Postural scoliosis: a condition where the spine can curve more than 50 degrees.
  2. Scheuermann’s kyphosis: characterized by a hump on the back due to the formation of vertebrae. It becomes more severe as the spine develops. This type of scoliosis has a serious impact on children and adolescents.
  3. Congenital scoliosis: characterized by an outward curvature of the spine that appears at birth. As this person grows up, the outward curvature will become increasingly evident.

Mild scoliosis can cause some problems, whereas severe scoliosis can cause pain and deformity. Depending on age, cause, and consequence of curvature, different treatment methods are recommended


Signs and Symptoms of Scoliosis

In most cases, mild scoliosis may not present any noticeable signs or symptoms. As the condition progresses, individuals may experience symptoms such as back pain, stiffness, and joint discomfort.

Common signs and symptoms of scoliosis as noted by orthopedic doctors include:

  • Visible hump or bump on the back due to forward curvature of the spine (observed by looking at the individual from the side).
  • Different levels of back pain (dull ache, sharp pain, soreness, severe pain, etc.).
  • Difficulty in movement, particularly in standing up straight.
  • Decreased height, which affects appearance.
  • In some cases, individuals with scoliosis may experience loss of sensation, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the legs.

Causes of Scoliosis

Some possible causes of scoliosis include:

  • Fractured bones: Broken vertebrae can lead to curvature of the spine. Fractures caused by compression are the most common in weakened bones.
  • Osteoporosis: This condition is characterized by the loss of bone density, which weakens bones and increases the risk of fractures caused by compression. It is most common in elderly women and men.
  • Degenerative disc disease: Discs between the vertebrae that help absorb shock may become compressed and shrink as a person ages, worsening scoliosis.
  • Scheuermann’s disease: This condition typically starts during periods of rapid growth in children and adolescents. As the skeletal system develops, scoliosis may also develop gradually.
  • Congenital defects: Abnormal development of the spine in the womb can cause scoliosis at birth. The causes are linked to some medical conditions, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
  • Poor posture habits: This is a common cause of scoliosis in children and adolescents. Long-term poor posture can become a habit, and bones may develop in a new structure accordingly. Additionally, incorrect posture can lead to serious health issues.

Does kyphosis affect height?

Kyphosis not only affects height but also has a serious impact on the body. In children, kyphosis can hinder natural height growth, making it difficult for them to reach their ideal height for their age. Meanwhile, in adults, kyphosis can cause a loss of height of several centimeters.

Kyphosis hampers height growth

Children and adolescents with kyphosis may not reach the standard height that has been genetically determined. This is due to the impact of the disease on factors that determine height, such as bone health, the ability to absorb nutrients, physical activity, and rest time.

Strong bone health is a necessary condition for height growth. However, for those with kyphosis, both bone mass and density decrease, and the spine is eroded. Nutrients received at this stage may be used by the body to repair damage rather than develop bones.

Kyphosis can also compress the digestive tract, causing problems such as acid reflux and difficulty swallowing. Eating becomes difficult, and the body does not have enough nutrients to provide for the bones. Along with that, the impacts on body balance, flexibility, and joint range of motion will make physical activity and height-increasing exercises more difficult.

Finally, the frequent pain and discomfort caused by kyphosis will make it difficult to have a good night’s sleep.


Kyphosis can cause “permanent” height loss

When kyphosis appears, it means that the bone structure has changed. If you observe people with kyphosis, you will easily notice that their shoulders are always lower than usual. Even when looking from behind, you cannot see their neck.

According to survey results, the body’s natural height will increase by about 1-2cm if you maintain a straight posture. Conversely, people with kyphosis may lose 4-6cm in height. This also creates negative effects on their body shape.

How to effectively treat kyphosis?

Most cases of kyphosis do not require treatment. For cases caused by poor posture, the most effective treatment is to improve posture. In cases where kyphosis is caused by abnormal spinal shape (Scheuermann’s kyphosis), treatment depends on factors such as age, gender, and severity of the curve.

Use of pain relievers

Over-the-counter medications such as Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), or Naproxen sodium (Aleve) can help reduce the pain caused by kyphosis. If you do not see any improvement, you may want to consult with a doctor to receive a stronger prescription.

Exercise – Physical Therapy

Exercises that strengthen the core and stretch the body, such as yoga, pilates, and some martial arts, can also be helpful for your condition. Dedicate 30-45 minutes a day to exercise. It is important to remember to practice proper technique and not to push yourself too hard.

Wear a back brace

Teens with mild to moderate kyphosis should wear a back brace. This way, the bones will continue to develop normally while also preventing the curvature from getting worse.

You may not be used to wearing a back brace at first, but you will get used to it over time. Current back braces are designed intelligently, so you can wear them during sports activities.

Note: This method is not recommended for adults, as it cannot adjust the position of the spine to the correct structure due to the fully developed bones.

Surgery for treating kyphosis

Surgery can relieve pain and correct the shape of the back, but it carries a high risk of other complications. This method is usually recommended for severe cases of kyphosis with symptoms such as:

A visibly pronounced curvature of the spine

  • Curvature causing unbearable pain that cannot be controlled with medication
  • Curvature causing disruption to other bodily functions such as respiration, digestion, etc.
  • Curvature that can worsen if left untreated

During the surgery, the curvature in the spine is straightened using metal rods, screws, and hooks. The process can take between 4-8 hours. You will need to wear a back brace during the postoperative period to support your spine.

How to prevent kyphosis?

Maintaining the correct posture during all activities is the most important step in preventing kyphosis. The following posture guidelines can bring about maximum benefits:

  • Walking and standing posture: Keep your head straight, shoulders level, and chest slightly protruding forward.
  • Sitting posture: Keep your head straight, knees at a right angle to your hips, and eyes looking straight ahead.
  • Lifting and carrying objects: Squat down low, lift the object with both hands, then slowly straighten your legs and stand up straight. Be sure not to hunch or strain your back.
  • Sleeping posture: Prioritize sleeping on your back to keep the spine straight. If you prefer sleeping on your side, use a thin pillow or a body pillow to prop up your arms and legs for proper alignment.

Additionally, regular exercise and physical activity are an effective way to prevent kyphosis.

Although kyphosis is not a life-threatening condition, it has a serious impact on body image and can cause psychological distress. For children and adolescents, the effects of this condition are even greater: it inhibits height growth, causes negative effects on health, psychological well-being, and body image. To avoid this, always pay attention to your body posture, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy diet.

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