How Fast Does Scoliosis Progress?
 
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.
After Scoliosis Surgery
 

Some scoliosis sufferers undergo spinal fusion surgery to correct their spinal curve. As with any surgical procedure, there are many risks involved – risks that put many people off the idea of scoliosis surgery altogether.

 
For some people, however, surgery is the only treatment available. If you are preparing for a spinal fusion procedure, you should bear in mind that surgery is not an instant miracle cure – after scoliosis surgery there is a long recovery period, and the exact results of the operation can vary.

What happens after the operation?

After scoliosis surgery, you will be required to stay in hospital for a certain amount of time, with the exact duration differing from one case to the next. The discomfort that immediately follows spinal fusion surgery is generally greater than for other spinal surgeries, and patients usually stay in hospital for three or four days after the operation, but a longer stay after a more extensive surgery is not uncommon. If you have undergone extensive surgery, or if you’re an elderly patient, it is recommended that you stay in a rehabilitation unit after release from hospital.

How long will it take to fully recover and return to a normal lifestyle?

After surgery, it usually takes a while before the patient can return to a normal active lifestyle. This is because the surgeon will need to see evidence of the bone healing first; the speed of the fusion process varies greatly because all bodies heal (and incorporate the bone graft fusing the vertebrae together) at different rates. In some cases, you won’t see any evidence of the bone healing until at least 6 weeks after the surgery.
 
During this period, the patient’s activity is restricted. Large-scale bone healing doesn’t take place until three or four months after surgery. After this period, the patient’s activity can be increased.
 
Some spinal fusion patients are required to wear a back brace for a period of time after the operation. The decision to use a brace and the degree of restrictiveness depends upon your surgeon’s preference and other factors related to your surgery.

How long will I need off work?

Time off work also varies depending on how extensive your surgery was and also what type of job you do. Downtime can vary from 4-6 weeks (common for a single-level fusion in a young, healthy patient with a desk job) to as much as 4-6 months (which may be necessary after more extensive surgery on an older patient with a more physically demanding occupation).

How can Scoliosis SOS help?

It is difficult to predict the length of your recovery period and the amount of pain and discomfort you will feel after undergoing spinal surgery – these things vary greatly from one patient to the next. However, if you wish to speed up the recovery process and reduce any pain you’re still experiencing, we at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic can help! Our ScolioGold method can help to reduce back pain, improve mobility, speed up the correction of a spinal curve, and correct any secondary curves that may have developed above or below the fusion site. 
 
Our ScolioGold programme is largely based around the Schroth method – however, unlike many other clinics, we don’t solely use Schroth exercises to treat scoliosis. Instead, we compliment it with a range of non-surgical spinal treatment techniques, resulting in a more well-rounded treatment regime.
 
If you wish to find out more about our ScolioGold method and how it can help you recover from scoliosis surgery, please contact Scoliosis SOS and book an initial consultation today.
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. 
 
Scoliosis Treatment Diagrams
Image Source: Arallyn on Flickr
 
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 

Cobb Angle Measurements
 
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.
 
Would you like to find out more about non-surgical scoliosis treatment? Visit our treatment page to read about the ScolioGold method we use here at Scoliosis SOS, or get in touch with us here.
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 

Lumber Hyper Extension

Lumbar Hyper-Extension

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.
 
Thoracic Rotation

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 the Neck

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. 
 
Back Bend

Back Bends

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.)

Scoliosis Patients from Around the World

In the last 12 months, as shown on the map above, we have been lucky enough to meet and treat people from:
  • Algeria
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Egypt
  • Faroe Islands
  • France
  • Gambia
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Greece
  • Guatemala
  • Hong Kong
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iraq
  • Ireland
  • Isle of Man
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Kenya
  • Kuwait
  • Lithuania
  • Malaysia
  • Malta
  • Mauritius
  • Morocco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Nigeria
  • Norfolk Island
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Russia 
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Tajikistan
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • 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.
Dorsal Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a sideways curving of the spine. The term dorsal scoliosis refers to any such curvature of the spine that occurs between the bottom of the neck and the top of the pelvis. The word ‘dorsal’ simply means ‘back’ (from the Latin dorsum), and as such, dorsal scoliosis is quite a vague diagnosis.

Some medical practitioners refer to the ‘dorsal spine’, which encompasses both the thoracic vertebrae (the vertebrae attached to your ribs) and the lumbar vertebrae (the vertebrae between the rib cage and the pelvis). It is therefore more common and more informative for doctors to diagnose a patient with either thoracic scoliosis or lumbar scoliosis depending on where the spinal curve is located.

Symptoms of thoracic / lumbar scoliosis

Common symptoms of thoracic and lumbar scoliosis include:

  • Uneven shoulders, waist and hips
  • Body leaning to one side 
  • Uneven rib cage alignment 
  • One shoulder blade being more prominent than the other 
  • One arm being longer than the other 

How can scoliosis be treated? 

Scoliosis is often treated using a method known as bracing – the patient wears a rigid plastic shell for 23 hours of the day to stop their spinal curve from progressing. In severe cases, spinal fusion surgery – a surgical procedure that involves the use of metal rods to fix and straighten the spine – may be recommended.

However, these are not the only ways to treat scoliosis. Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we believe that the best way to treat is non-surgically, and so we treat our patients using the Schroth method and a combination of other exercise-based techniques that have been tested and proven to combat the effects of scoliosis. We call this the ScolioGold method.

If you’re looking for scoliosis treatment that doesn’t involve a back brace or surgery, please contact us to find out more.

Pain Caused by Scoliosis

You might think it obvious that a curvature of the spine such as scoliosis should cause pain. However, most medical professionals agree that the curve itself is not what makes scoliosis painful – instead, the symptoms that arise as a result of the curvature are what tend to cause patients pain.

Why does scoliosis cause back pain? 

Scoliosis may result in back pain because it can place stress or pressure on the patient’s spinal discs, nerves, ligaments, muscles and/or facet joints. ‘S’-shaped scoliosis is typically less painful than ‘C’-shaped scoliosis because the curvature is balanced more evenly.

Furthermore, if the spinal curvature is severe enough, the back muscles may also become more prone to painful spasms; these can cause the surrounding muscles to become inflamed, another potential source of pain.

Can scoliosis cause leg pain? 

Many scoliosis patients report feeling pain in their legs and wonder if this pain is caused by scoliosis. If the curvature is so severe that it causes misalignment of the hips, this can change how the patient walks and may make the muscles tire sooner as the body has to over-compensate in order to maintain balance.

Scoliosis is also associated with lumbar stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal). This can sometimes result in leg pain and nerve irritation.

What other pain can be caused by scoliosis? 

If one’s spinal curvature becomes too severe (typically above 80 degrees), this can lead to breathing/cardiovascular issues. This happens when the spinal curve causes the rib cage to twist, which in turn reduces the amount of space available for the lungs and heart. The rib cage may also then push up against the internal organs, which could cause yet more pain. 

However, scoliosis itself is still not thought to directly cause pain, especially in infants and adolescents. If you do find that you are experiencing chronic pain as a result of your scoliosis, there are treatments available to help you with this; here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we offer non-surgical treatment courses to help scoliosis patients reduce pain and combat other symptoms of spinal curvature.

To book your initial consultation with Scoliosis SOS, please click here.

Doctors and other medical professionals use a lot of long words when describing scoliosis, to the point where some patients find it difficult to know exactly what they’re being diagnosed with. You probably know that scoliosis is a sideways spinal curve, but would you understand what the doctor meant if – for example – they told you that you had mild thoracic dextroscoliosis?

To help you better grasp the terminology associated with scoliosis and other curvatures of the spine, we’d like to take a moment to break that mouthful down. If you want to know what ‘mild thoracic dextroscoliosis’ actually means, read on…

Mild

Let’s start with the easy bit. The word ‘mild’ indicates that, as things stand, your spinal curve is not especially severe – although it may get worse over time. A mild case of scoliosis may not be visible to the casual observer, although other symptoms may still be present.

What counts as a ‘mild’ spinal curve?

Generally speaking, if your Cobb angle measurement is 20 degrees or less, you can be said to have ‘mild’ scoliosis (bear in mind that a curve of less than 10 degrees would not be classed as scoliosis at all). Note that the word ‘mild’ here only refers to the angle of the curve – a person with mild scoliosis may still experience a significant amount of pain, reduced flexibility, etc.

Thoracic

The next word is ‘thoracic’, which simply means that your spinal curve is located in the upper (thoracic) part of the spine, coloured red in the diagram below.

If your curve is located in the lower part of the spine, you are said to have ‘lumbar’ scoliosis. When the curve encompasses vertebrae from both the thoracic and lumbar spine, that’s called thoracolumbar scoliosis.

Dextroscoliosis

Finally, we come to the longest word of the three: ‘dextroscoliosis’. This term is taken from the Latin word dexter, which simply means ‘right’ (as in the opposite of left); therefore, if you have a case of dextroscoliosis, you have a spine that curves to the right.

As the image above shows, scoliosis that curves towards the left side of the body is known as levoscoliosis. If you’re ever struggling to remember which is which, just remember that ‘levoscoliosis’ and ‘left’ both begin with the letter L.

Now, let’s put it all together…

What does ‘mild thoracic dextroscoliosis’ mean?

If you have mild thoracic dextroscoliosis, you have:

  • A spinal curve measuring 10-20 degrees
  • …in the upper (thoracic) part of your spine…
  • …that curves towards the right side of your body.

If you have been diagnosed with mild thoracic dextroscoliosis and require treatment, simply click above to book your consultation. For further information on dextroscoliosis or if you have questions regarding our treatments, please do not hesitate to contact us today.

Case Study: Anna, aged 36

Anna has a mild case of scoliosis, but that doesn’t stop her feeling self-conscious about her condition. At the time when she came to us for treatment, she was about to get married. Despite only having a mild case of scoliosis, that might not have even been detectable to others, Anna knew that her scoliosis curvature would be playing on her mind throughout her big day. Our treatments helped her feel confident enough to wear her backless wedding dress! 

Watch our full interview with Anna here:

Global Scoliosis Population

Whether you’ve recently been diagnosed with scoliosis or merely suspect that you may be suffering from a curvature of the spine, it’s likely that you’ll have many questions about the condition, especially if you’ve heard little about it until now. For example, many people ask how common scoliosis is, and this is a question to which there is no single or clear answer.

Despite this, we can provide some information about the prevalence of scoliosis in people of all ages, along with data about how often those spinal curves go on to cause further medical problems.

So, how common is scoliosis? 

Approximately 4 out of every 100 people have scoliosis. However, not every case of scoliosis causes pain, nor does it necessarily impact the patient’s mobility or appearance. In fact, many cases are asymptomatic (i.e. there are no immediately obvious symptoms), with the condition being diagnosed only once a mild skeletal imbalance is noticed.

For some sufferers, however, the curvature gets progressively worse as time passes, with secondary medical issues and complications arising as a result.

Who does scoliosis affect?

Scoliosis is more likely to affect women than men, and so there are more female than male scoliosis sufferers. There is no clear reason for this bias, although multiple theories have been proposed.

With regards to age, scoliosis can develop at any time of life, from birth to old age; more often than not, however, it develops during adolescence, roughly coinciding with the growth spurts that occur between the ages of 10 and 15.

Which types of scoliosis are most common?

The question ‘how common is scoliosis?’ becomes more complicated when you consider the many different types of scoliosis that exist. Idiopathic scoliosis is by far the condition’s most common form, but you may be more at risk of developing another type of scoliosis if you have other medical problems, such as a neuromuscular condition or an illness that weakens your muscles and/or bones.

The most common location in which scoliosis occurs is the upper/middle section of the back (thoracic scoliosis), although many patients suffer with lumbar (lower back) scoliosis instead.

How common is severe scoliosis?

Around 0.2% of people have a scoliotic spinal curve measuring in excess of 30 degrees; only 0.1% percent have a Cobb angle exceeding 40 degrees. Treatment is usually recommended before the curve gets as far as 40 degrees – this treatment may consist of physical therapy, preventative measures (such as bracing), and/or corrective surgery (usually reserved for the most severe cases).

It is important to note that scoliosis is not considered to be a fatal condition. The curve caused by scoliosis cannot directly result in an individual’s death; that being said, there are some secondary risks which can occur as a result of the condition, resulting in complications for a very small number of patients.

Do you have more questions about scoliosis? Click here to learn about our non-surgical treatment methods, or get in touch to arrange a consultation with Scoliosis SOS.

In most cases of scoliosis, the curve either occurs in the upper part of the spine (a thoracic curve) or the lower part of the spine (a lumbar curve). It may also occur in the middle of the spine and include both thoracic and lumbar vertebrae – this is called a thoracolumbar curve.

However, in some cases, the upper part of the spine will curve in one direction while the lower spine curves in the other. This creates a ‘double’ curvature with the appearance of a letter ‘S’.

S Shaped Scoliosis

Examples of ‘S’-shaped spines.

Causes & Symptoms of Double Scoliosis

The exact cause of double curve scoliosis is unknown, but this condition is not uncommon, nor is it life-threatening. While both curves will usually be of roughly equal size, a double scoliosis patient’s Cobb angles may be anywhere from 10 degrees to 100 degrees.

Symptoms of ‘S’-shaped scoliosis may include:

  • One of your hips or shoulders being higher than the other
  • One of your shoulder blades being higher or sticking out further than the other
  • A rib hump (if your scoliosis has caused your chest to become twisted)
  • One arm appearing to be longer than the other because of a tilt in your upper body

As this spinal condition progresses, back pain can develop and the curvature can put pressure on your nerves. This can lead to weakness, numbness and pain in your legs, and may even cause a loss of coordination in the muscles of the legs, making it difficult to walk.

In severe cases, the patient’s lungs or heart may be affected, leading to breathing problems and heart failure. Luckily, such extreme outcomes are very rare even if you do have an ‘S’-shaped spine.

Treating ‘S’-Shaped Scoliosis 

In order to halt the progression of double curve scoliosis, you may be required to wear a brace or undergo spinal fusion surgery. Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, however, we treat scoliosis suffers using a non-surgical, brace-free treatment programme called ScolioGold – a combination of non-surgical scoliosis treatment techniques from around the world. 

ScolioGold therapy is designed to treat all aspects of each patient’s spinal condition with no need for surgical intervention. For more information about our scoliosis treatment courses, or to book an initial consultation, contact Scoliosis SOS today!