One of the worst things about scoliosis
(sideways curvature of the spine) is the fact that, very often, the condition becomes more and more pronounced as time goes by. A curve that is barely noticeable to begin with can become seriously problematic and disfiguring if left untreated for long enough.
But how long does it take for a spinal curve to reach that point? How quickly does scoliosis progress, and how long can you safely go without treatment?
As usual, every case is different.
Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast answer to either of the above questions. Some spinal curves don’t progress at all after a certain point, while others progress very rapidly and continue to do so until action is taken.
Let’s take a look at the most common form of scoliosis – idiopathic scoliosis
. In most cases of idiopathic scoliosis, the curve develops around the time the patient hits puberty, then continues to progress throughout their adolescence until their spine has finished growing (usually at age 16-18). However, the rate of progression can vary greatly from one person to the next, and there’s no guarantee that the progression will cease as soon as the patient stops growing. No two cases are alike!
Things get even more complicated when you take into account all the other different forms of scoliosis. While most cases of scoliosis are idiopathic (i.e. lacking a clear underlying cause), the condition can also be triggered by any number of other factors, from neuromuscular diseases to the human body’s natural ageing process. The type of scoliosis you have makes a huge difference to the speed at which your condition progresses (if indeed it progresses at all).
How to stop a spinal curve from progressing
Once scoliosis has been diagnosed, there are a number of different ways to prevent it from progressing any further. For some patients – particularly young children with very mild scoliosis – medical practitioners may simply recommend observation (closely monitoring the spinal curve and watching for changes) as the best way forward. However, in most cases, one or more of the following treatment methods will be used:
- Bracing – The patient wears a rigid plastic back brace to effectively hold their spine in place and prevent it from becoming any more curved than it already is.
- Spinal Fusion Surgery – A surgical procedure where metal rods are used to anchor the spine in place.
- Physical Therapy – A non-invasive approach that uses stretches and exercises to correct the curvature and prevent further progression.
ScolioGold therapy, which we use to treat curved spines here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, is an example of the third treatment method. To read more about ScolioGold and the use of physical therapy to treat scoliosis, please click here
Although it is estimated that over 4% of individuals have some degree of scoliosis
, many people have never heard of (or know very little about) this condition.
Whether you have just been diagnosed or are simply looking to find out a little bit more about scoliosis, we thought that it would be a good idea to provide a short history of scoliosis so as to allow our patients and other visitors to find out more about mankind’s understanding of scoliosis and how this has progressed over the years.
Scoliosis in Ancient Greece
Although our sophisticated understanding of scoliosis, what causes it, and how to treat it is a rather modern development, knowledge of the condition can be traced back to ancient civilisations, and is well-documented by ancient Greek scholars. Hippocrates wrote about spinal curvature throughout his medical literature, although there was no clear distinction between different types of curve at this time. He even developed treatment methods and devices for spinal correction, the most well-known being his ‘Hippocratic ladder’ and ‘Hippocratic board’.
This research was furthered by Galen in the 2nd century AD, who is considered to be an early pioneer of spinal research, and who is said to have first coined the term σκολίωσις/sκoliosis (from which the modern term derives).
Ambroise Paré’s Scoliosis Brace
The modern Boston bace (designed circa 1972 in Massachusetts) is widely used to treat idiopathic scoliosis, particularly in children, by halting curve progression. The concept of bracing for scoliosis, however, has been around far longer than the 1970s, with Ambroise Paré suggesting the use of a metallic brace for spinal correction during the Renaissance era. Known as the ‘Father of Modern Surgery’, Paré was the first to use continuous bracing as a form of treatment for scoliosis, and was also the first to recognise that this was not useful once the patient had reached maturity. Despite his insistence on the bracing method, Paré never rejected traction therapy, continuing to use this in his treatments, and also insisting on the importance of exercise for healthy spinal development and curve correction.
The Development of Cobb Angle Measurement
The system used nowadays to measure scoliosis and post-traumatic kyphosis is known as the Cobb angle
, which acts as a guide for assessing the severity of a patient’s curve. This method was devised by and named after John Robert Cobb, an American orthopaedic surgeon who worked at what was then known as the ‘Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled’ from 1934 onwards. It was here that Cobb experimented with and developed his scoliosis assessment method as a way of better understanding the condition and avoiding unnecessary surgery.
Exercise is important for scoliosis sufferers – in addition to being good for your overall health, the right kind of physical activity helps to strengthen the muscles that may have been weakened by the curvature of your spine. However, some exercises can have a negative, even dangerous impact on a scoliotic spine, and if you have scoliosis, it’s good to know which stretches and exercises might do you more harm than good.
We at Scoliosis SOS have a lot of experience when it comes to treating scoliosis
and other spinal conditions, and our physiotherapists
understand exactly how a curved spine can be affected by different movements and extensions. Today, we’d like to highlight some exercises that scoliosis patients are better off avoiding.
Positions and exercises to avoid if you have scoliosis
It’s important to avoid any position which will exert excessive force to the lower back through extension. This will encourage compression of the lumbar spine, and is especially dangerous if you have an underlying spinal problem such as spondylolisthesis
Uncontrolled Thoracic Rotation
You should avoid any prolonged positions where your upper trunk is rotated above your lower trunk as in the images above. This will apply inadvertent torsion and twisting forces to your spine – especially critical when looking at scoliotic rotation.
Hyperflexion of Neck
Positions such as the one shown above apply excessive strain to the small vertebrae in your neck; if you have scoliosis, this will also place increased weight and strain through the weaker parts of your spine, potentially causing your spinal curve to increase.
Similar to hyperextension of the lower back (see above), this position will put undue stress and strain on your spine, and may cause your spinal curve to become even more severe.
If you want to learn more about which scoliosis exercises to avoid, or if you’re interested in receiving treatment here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Here at Scoliosis SOS, we pride ourselves on our status as a truly international treatment centre. Scoliosis sufferers of all ages have come from all over the world to receive non-surgical treatment at our clinic – in fact, in the last year alone, we have treated individuals from no fewer than 72 different countries and territories! (Not including the United Kingdom, where our clinic is located.)
In the last 12 months, as shown on the map above, we have been lucky enough to meet and treat people from:
- Czech Republic
- Faroe Islands
- Hong Kong
- Isle of Man
- New Zealand
- Norfolk Island
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
- United Arab Emirates
- United States of America
- Virgin Islands
You can read about some of our visitors from abroad on our Overseas Patients
page. If you visit our YouTube channel
, you will also be able to watch interviews with many of our foreign patients.
Why do people choose to travel to our clinic?
Having scanned the long list of countries above, you may be wondering why exactly the Scoliosis SOS Clinic is worth a long journey to London from Tanzania or Peru or New Zealand. In other words: why do people from every corner of the globe come to our clinic in England?
The answer is rooted in the fact that we specialise in non-surgical treatment
for scoliosis and other spinal conditions. In most parts of the world, the standard treatment route for scoliosis sufferers involves wearing an uncomfortable plastic brace and undergoing surgery if the curve progresses past a certain point. Here at Scoliosis SOS, we offer a real alternative to surgical intervention: ScolioGold therapy
, our own treatment programme which is based on the Schroth method
but also incorporates numerous other approaches.
For years now, ScolioGold treatment has been reducing Cobb angles
and improving quality of life among scoliosis patients from all sorts of backgrounds. Effective non-surgical treatments for scoliosis are unfortunately still unavailable in many countries, and this – combined with the worldwide word-of-mouth advertising that our happy patients provide for us upon returning home – goes a long way to explaining why people are prepared to travel long distances to benefit from our own treatment methods.
No matter where in the world you live, if you are suffering from a curved spine, we would love to hear from you. Contact Scoliosis SOS today to arrange an initial consultation – this can be carried out via Skype or over the telephone if you don’t live anywhere near London.