What is it ?
Scheuermann’s disease refers to a vertebral condition related to skeletal growth that causes spinal deformity, kyphosis. This disease, which is named after the Danish doctor who described it in 1920, occurs at the time of adolescence and gives a person a “hunchbacked” and “voutée” appearance. It affects children aged 10 to 15, more often boys than girls. Lesions in the cartilage and vertebrae are irreversible, although the disease stops evolving at the end of growth. Physical therapy helps the person affected to maintain motor skills and the use of surgery takes place only in the most severe forms.
Symptoms of Scheuermann’s disease
The disease is often asymptomatic and is accidentally discovered on X-ray. Fatigue and muscle stiffness are usually the first symptoms of Scheuermann’s disease. Symptoms appear mainly in the lower part of the dorsal spine (or thoracic spine, between the shoulder blades): an exaggerated kyphosis occurs with the growth of bones and cartilages and a spinal-shaped deformation of the spine appears, conferring the person with a “hunchbacked” or “hunched” appearance. One test is to observe the profile column while the child is leaning forward. A peak shape appears instead of a curve at the lower part of the thoracic spine. The lumbar portion of the column may also deform in turn and ascoliosis occurs in 20% of cases, causing more intense pain. It should be noted that neurological signs are rare, but not excluded, and that the pain caused is not systematically proportional to the curvature of the column.
The origins of the disease
The origin of Scheuermann’s disease is unknown to this day. It could be a mechanical response to injury or repeated trauma. Genetic factors could also be responsible for bone and cartilage fragility. Indeed, a familial form of Scheuermann’s disease directs the researchers towards the hypothesis of a hereditary form with a transmission in the autosomal dominant mode.
Risk factors for Scheuermann’s disease
Sitting posture with curved back should be avoided as much as possible. Thus, the person suffering from the disease must prefer a non-sitting profession. The sport is not to proscribe but is an aggravating factor if it is violent and traumatic for the organism in general and the back in particular. We must focus on soft sports such as swimming or walking.
Prevention and treatment of Scheuermann’s disease
Treatments for Scheuermann’s disease consist in relieving the spine, controlling its deformation, improving the posture of the person affected and, ultimately, reducing the damage and pain caused. They must be implemented as early as possible during adolescence.
Occupational therapy, physiotherapy and ultrasonic treatments, infrared light and electrotherapy can reduce back pain and stiffness and maintain good motor function of the upper and lower limbs. In addition to these conservation measures, it is also a question of applying forces to try to stretch the kyphosis when the growth is not completed: by strengthening the musculature of the back and abdominals and, when the curvature is important , by wearing an orthosis (a corset). Spinal uprighting by surgical intervention is recommended only in severe forms, ie when the curvature of kyphosis is greater than 60-70 ° and previous treatments have not allowed relieve the person.