Scoliosis and Respiratory Muscle Strength

Spine Health released a new study to examine the Curvature of the Spine, Neuromuscular Disorders and Lung Function

By: Chris Maynard
Online Content Manager, Spine-health

Nov 24, 2009 (Spine-Health) -- Patients with neuromuscular disorders had diminished respiratory muscle strength and pulmonary function compared with a healthy control group, according to a new study also examining how scoliosis affects lung function.

As detailed in a recent edition of The Spine Journal, neuromuscular disorders are known to lead to lung volume loss and respiratory muscle weakness, but the effects of scoliosis on lung function are unknown, a point that served as a basis of this study.

For some context, neuromuscular disorders occur when the neurons, or nerve cells that send messages that control voluntary muscles like the arms and legs, become unhealthy and die. As a result of this breakdown in communication between the nervous system and muscles, the muscles weaken, possibly leading to a wide variety of symptoms (including twitching, cramps, aches, pains, and joint and movement problems) and even affecting heart function and breathing ability.

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine that is often marked by one shoulder, side of the rib cage or hip appearing higher than its respective other, the waist appearing uneven, the body tilting to one side, or one leg looking shorter than the other. Back pain is not usually considered a symptom of scoliosis.

For the study, approximately 22 patients with neuromuscular disorders and scoliosis, 17 patients with neuromuscular disorders without scoliosis, and 24 age- and sex-matched healthy controls were subjected to various tests comparing their respiratory muscle strength and pulmonary function, which specifically measures how well the lungs take in and release air and move this oxygen throughout the body.

According to the study’s findings, patients with neuromuscular disorders, regardless of having or not having scoliosis, had diminished respiratory muscle strength when compared to the healthy subjects. Furthermore, patients with neuromuscular disorders and scoliosis had significantly lower pulmonary function scores than not only the control group of healthy patients but the patients who had neuromuscular disorders but were without scoliosis.

The researchers indicated that these findings could mean that the effects of neuromuscular disorders on respiratory function are independent of scoliosis and suggested that clinicians should be aware of the possibility of compromised respiratory function when treating patients with neuromuscular disorders.

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