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Scheuermanns Disease is a condition that affects the discs and vertebrae of the Thoracic Spine (mid back), though the low back is also less commonly affected. Normally, a vertebra is rectangularly shaped, but in Scheuermanns disease, three or more consecutive vertebrae are wedge shaped at the front, which makes the curve increase.
It occurs in puberty, with boys and girls equally affected, and the incidence is below 10% of the population. The causes are unknown, though there is often a family history. Some of the mechanisms thought to be responsible are as follows:
Symptoms generally begin in puberty, with aching, weakness and postural faults being common. In adults, degenerative changes usually result in thinning of discs, general back ache and increased observable curve when bending forward.
Conservative management usually involves improving strength and flexibility of the back through exercises. Chiropractic care can help rehabilitate the spine through stimulation and improving muscle tone and joint function. Soft tissue massage is often taught to family members to relieve stress in the muscles and to relieve pain. Often, a combination of treatment including manipulation, extensor muscle training, acupuncture and other physical therapies can minimise the severity of the curve and improve the posture of the individual. It is important to note however, that as this is a developmental condition, it cannot be cured, but rather is something that will require occasional maintenance care to relieve the build up of strain in the muscles, ligaments and discs surrounding the condition.
In severe cases, bracing is occasionally used, though this does not fix the problem. Surgical insertion of rods into the spine is also performed, though this should only be performed in severe cases, and only after extensively trying Physiotherapy and Chiropractic options as well as self care strategies to strengthen the back.