Hydrotherapy

Derived from the Greek words hudōr (water) and therapeia (healing), hydrotherapy (also known as aquatic therapy) is a method that is used to treat a variety of different bodily ailments. We recently began incorporating hydrotherapy into our ScolioGold method for scoliosis treatment, and today we’d like to take some time to tell you a little more about it.

If you suffer from back pain due to scoliosis – but you’re worried that your reduced flexibility and mobility might hinder you in an exercise-based treatment setting – hydrotherapy is a great solution. Being immersed in water provides support for your body and creates a feeling of well-being without the intensity of land-based exercise.

 

How does hydrotherapy work?

Hydrotherapy combines physical rehabilitation treatments with the natural benefits of water-based exercise. The result is a gentle but efficient scoliosis treatment method.

Water has five key properties that play a large part in the effectiveness of hydrotherapy treatment:

  • Buoyancy – The upward pressure in the water eases stress on muscles and joints, soothing the aches and pains that scoliosis can cause.

  • Temperature – Warm water is known for soothing and relaxing the body.

  • Viscosity – The ‘thickness’ of water prompts gentle resistance from the muscles.

  • Turbulence – When placed in moving water, the body naturally moves to maintain balance, exercising the muscles.

  • Hydrostatic Pressure – Hydrostatic pressure provides a natural relief for joint swelling.

 

What are the benefits of hydrotherapy treatment for scoliosis?

The main benefit of hydrotherapy is that flexibility and mobility are no longer an issue. As mentioned above, the gentle pressure and buoyancy provided by water naturally soothe pain and allow the patient to exercise while at ease.

Pain is often dramatically reduced by hydrotherapy, and as a result of this, patients with limited mobility are able to achieve fantastic results through stretching in the water. These stretches strengthen the muscles in the back and can help improve the degree of the curvature. If patients choose, they can also combine hydrotherapy with land-based therapy on one of our ScolioGold courses.

Another benefit of hydrotherapy treatment for scoliosis is that it offers more stability and protection from falls for those who struggle with balance. This is a great confidence boost for many patients.

There are many other benefits of using hydrotherapy treatment for scoliosis, including:

  • Pain relief from muscle spasms
  • Ease of movement
  • Increased joint range and flexibility
  • Improved strength and endurance
  • Reduction of oedema (excess watery fluid in cavities or tissue in the body)
  • Improved circulation
  • Better cardiovascular fitness
  • Increased level of relaxation

 

Who can participate in hydrotherapy treatment?

Hydrotherapy is suitable for scoliosis sufferers of all ages. The healing and support provided make it an ideal method of treatment for those who lack confidence when it comes to more traditional forms of exercise. As mentioned above, stability is not an issue for elderly or less mobile patients, as the water allows them to exercise without fear of falling.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we have had fantastic feedback from our hydrotherapy treatment sessions to date. We have found that it has offered hope to those patients who thought they would have to deal with their pain for the rest of their lives. Many of these patients did not think they would be able to improve their condition through exercise, but hydrotherapy treatment has provided them with that opportunity. 

If you think hydrotherapy treatment might be beneficial for you, please contact Scoliosis SOS today to book an initial consultation.

If you’re not familiar with medical language (and the Greek/Latin words from which medical language is often constructed), it can sometimes be difficult to work out what people are talking about when they refer to different forms of scoliosis.

Levoconvex Scoliosis

As we’ve seen time and time again here on the Scoliosis SOS blog, there are numerous different terms and pieces of jargon used to describe curvatures of the spine, and one thing we aim to do in our blog posts is decode these terms and help everyone to understand the topic at hand.

Today, we’d like to take a look at levoconvex scoliosis.

 

What does ‘levoconvex’ mean?

Levoconvex scoliosis is a type of scoliosis where the spine curves to the left. It can develop on its own during adolescence (see idiopathic scoliosis), or it may occur as the result of another condition.

As previously explained in our Dextroscoliosis vs. Levoscoliosis article, the term levo- simply means ‘left’. Levoscoliosis curves to the left, whereas dextroscoliosis curves to the right.

Dextroscoliosis vs Levoscoliosis

The term levoconvex scoliosis actually means more or less the same thing as levoscoliosis – it’s just a slightly more specific way of saying it. Adding the word ‘convex’ merely clarifies that it’s the outer (convex) edge of the curve that’s on the left.

 

Convex vs. concave

Every curve has a convex side and a concave side. ‘Convex’ refers to the outside of the curve, and ‘concave’ to the inside.

Convex and Concave Scoliosis Curve

If a doctor describes your spinal curve as ‘levoconvex’, it means that the convex side of the curve is on the left. In other words, the spine curves to the left.

Scoliosis SOS provide non-surgical treatment courses for scoliosis patients. Get in touch now to book an initial consultation – our ScolioGold treatment method is very effective at reducing curvature and improving quality of life.

Case Study: Kayla, aged 15

Kayla was diagnosed with scoliosis and wasn’t entirely sure what it was at first. When the doctors showed her the x-rays of her spine, she was quite upset. Most of the doctors that she visited recommended surgery, physiotherapy or a brace – none of them recommended exercise-based treatment. After coming to the Scoliosis SOS, Kayal really feels that this was the best option for her! 

See our full interview with Kayla here:

Contact Scoliosis SOS > Our Treatment Courses >

Specialised scoliosis physiotherapy

Idiopathic scoliosis (which usually arises during puberty, when the body is going through a period of rapid growth) is often treated using a rigid back brace that prevents the spinal curve from progressing as the patient grows. It’s important to note that the aim of this bracing treatment is not to correct / reverse the sideways curvature of the spine, but simply to stop it from getting worse until the body has finished growing.

And while bracing can be very effective in that respect, it does very little to assist in building up the muscle strength that will be needed to ensure spinal stability once the brace comes off.

In fact, bracing tends to have a negative effect on muscle strength.

Scoliosis braces typically have to be worn for over 20 hours a day in order to achieve the best treatment outcome. During the bracing period, the muscles around the spine are likely to become inactive because the brace is doing their job (i.e. supporting the spine) for them.

This often results in a weakening of the spinal muscles, which may lead to the patient becoming reliant on the support of the brace.

But physical therapy can help with this problem.

There is a lot of clinical evidence to suggest that bracing delivers better outcomes for the patient when combined with scoliosis-specific physiotherapy. A 2011 study1 found that combining these two approaches reduces the risk of future curve progression and thus the likelihood that spinal fusion surgery will eventually be required. It has also been shown2 that completing a scoliosis-specific exercise programme limits the reversal of spinal correction when bracing ends.

Not only are scoliosis-specific exercises recommended in the SOSORT 2011 guidelines for people with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis who are undergoing brace treatment, but several authors who developed scoliosis braces (such as the Milwaukee, Boston, Lyon and Chêneau braces) have proposed that scoliosis-specific exercises should be used to complement brace treatment. Indeed, the newly-developed Sforzesco and Gensingen braces are specifically designed to be worn in conjunction with exercise-based therapy.

In short: it’s good to receive physiotherapy for your scoliosis even if it’s also being treated with a brace. Integrating scoliosis-specific exercises with a bracing treatment helps to provide a more complete rehabilitation programme for growing patients with idiopathic scoliosis.

Our Treatment Methods >   Book a Consultation >

Links & References

  • ScolioGold Therapy – The Scoliosis SOS Clinic’s own combination of proven exercise-based scoliosis treatment techniques
  • Contact Scoliosis SOS – Arrange an initial consultation (to be conducted at our clinic in London or via Skype / telephone)

 1. Negrini S, Aulisa AG, Aulisa L, Circo AB, de Mauroy JC, Durmala J,  Grivas TB, Knott P, Kotwicki T, Maruyama T, Minozzi S, O’Brien JP, Papadopoulos D, Rigo M, Rivard CH, Romano M, Wynne JH, Villagrasa M, Weiss HR, Zaina F: 2011 SOSORT guidelines: Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation treatment of idiopathic scoliosis during growth. Scoliosis 2012, 7:3

2. Zaina F, Negrini S, Atanasio S, Fusco C, Romano M, Negrini A: Specific exercises performed in the period of brace weaning can avoid loss of correction in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) patients: Winner of SOSORT’s 2008 Award for Best Clinical Paper. Scoliosis 2009, 4(1):8.

Back pain isn’t generally associated with being young, but scoliosis (a curvature of the spine that often leads to back pain) very often develops quite early in life – usually during adolescence. If your spinal curve went unnoticed and/or untreated during teenage years, you may well find yourself seeking scoliosis treatment as you enter your early 20s. Don’t worry – no age is ‘too late’ to start treatment, and the many 20-year-old patients we’ve treated here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic have seen fantastic results. 

scoliosis treatment for a 20 year old

A person who is suffering from scoliosis may suffer from pain, stiffness, postural problems, and self-esteem issues. Common symptoms include back pain (as mentioned above), muscular imbalance, uneven shoulders/legs/hips, and a visibly curved back.

However, even when weighed against all the problems that scoliosis can cause, spinal fusion surgery (the most common treatment for spinal curves that have progressed past a certain point) is still an incredibly daunting procedure that some young scoliosis patients would prefer to avoid. At Scoliosis SOS we use a range of non-surgical treatment techniques to reduce spinal curvature and improve patient quality of life without surgical intervention.

Case study: Ornela, a 21-year-old scoliosis patient from Albania

Ornela was diagnosed with scoliosis at 19 years old. Seeking treatment, she travelled from Albania to our clinic to undergo a 4-week non-surgical treatment course. Watch the video below to find out what she had to say about her experience with Scoliosis SOS:

ScolioGold therapy combines a number of non-surgical techniques to give scoliosis sufferers a non-invasive option for combating their condition. As Ornela experienced, our non-surgical treatments have proven extremely effective for patients of all ages – click here for more ‘before and after’ examples of patients aged 20-39.

No matter how old you are, we are more than happy to review your individual case and recommend the most suitable course of action for you. Contact Scoliosis SOS now to arrange an initial consultation.

The Scoliosis Life (@scolilife) is a Twitter account with more than 3,000 followers. The account’s anonymous owner has lived with scoliosis for the past 8 years, and they use Twitter to share their experiences along with a plethora of useful life tips for people with curved spines.

The person behind @scolilife very kindly agreed to answer a few questions for the Scoliosis SOS blog – read on to find out all about their condition, their journey, and their advice for fellow scoliosis patients:

Scolilife

First of all, please tell us a little about yourself – where in the world do you live, and when were you diagnosed with scoliosis?

I am from Canada! I was diagnosed by my family doctor at my yearly physical when I was 12 years old. My doctor knew to check for scoliosis because it’s genetic and it runs in my family.

How severe was your spinal curvature?

My curves progressed rather quickly. I was diagnosed with an ‘S’ curve, and both curves initially measured in the mid 30s. By the time I had surgery 5 years later, the curves had reached the high 80s.

What symptoms did you experience, and how much did they impact your day-to-day life?

Before surgery, I was experiencing shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and chronic pain. My ribs became constricted due to my curves, and my organs were so out of place that I could literally push them around. Even walking up a flight of stairs would leave me out of breath. I was hesitant to go out with friends because I never knew when a symptom would strike. There were many times in school where I would lose my breath because a slight turn caused my ribs to hit my lungs.

What treatments have you undergone since you were diagnosed?

When first diagnosed, I wore the SpineCor brace, but my curves continued to progress rapidly and I was put on the waiting list for surgery. To ensure my curves did not increase by huge increments, I was put into a Chêneau brace for the last year before surgery. I underwent spinal fusion surgery in March 2014.

How well did these treatments work for you?

For me personally, the SpineCor brace was not effective. Still, while I do have some regrets about this treatment option, the psychical and mental struggles I experienced while in this brace allowed me to grow and learn more about myself and my inner strength.

I found the Chêneau to be much more comfortable and I was pretty satisfied with it. This brace was not meant to stop my curves – by that point in my journey, my family and my doctors knew that my curves were going to increase and that surgery was inevitable. This brace was intended to keep my curves from increasing at extremely large increments while I waited for surgery, and to keep me as comfortable as possible in the meantime.

I am very open on my Twitter account about my surgery experience. My recovery was unusually long and difficult, but it has made me much stronger. Despite my long recovery, I am extremely pleased with my results. My scar looks amazing and has faded a lot since the operation. I am now much more active and ultimately more positive when it comes to my body image.

You refer to yourself in your Twitter bio as a ‘spoonie’ – have you found Christine Miserandino’s spoon theory useful when describing to other people what it’s like to live with a condition like scoliosis?

For a long time, I struggled with communicating to friends and family just how much my scoliosis affected me. Sometimes my scoliosis presents itself like an invisible illness, and people do not always understand how much a curved spine can impact one’s life. The spoon theory gave me something physical for friends and family to engage with in order to truly understand my life. This theory is adaptable, people of all ages can understand it, and it doesn’t matter if the person you’re talking to doesn’t have any knowledge of chronic illness.

It also allowed me to connect to a much larger population. I felt alone before, and even now my issues sometimes transcend those of the scoliosis community. The spoon theory and calling myself a ‘spoonie’ allowed me to find connections in a greater community and to help others who may have felt lost themselves.

Are there any under-publicised effects of scoliosis that you wish people spoke about more often?

I think the mental health issues that come with surgery are a large area of concern. Since my surgery, I suffer from anxiety and PTSD, and that’s been hard to discuss. I am still not open about it with friends and family. I think it’s important to let others know that feeling this way is normal, and that it’s okay to feel like that. But it is also important to let people know that there is no shame in getting help, and no matter how small you may feel your mental health is, someone wants to listen and help you. This is a lesson I am still trying to live by and follow.

I would also like to see more discussion on pain. Too often, surgeons write off pain as something that’s all in your head. My own surgeon referred me to a psychiatrist because he thought I was making up my chronic pain. I was 3 weeks post-op at the time. I think if more people shared their stories about pain, and if we increased the amount of research in this field, more medical professionals would change their views and increase and improve patient care. I think it also ties into mental health – by saying, ‘yes, scoliosis can cause pain’, we make people feel like their experiences are valid and let them know that they can get the treatment they need. 

I think there is a lot of room for growth, and I hope my Twitter account and my transparent views on pain and mental health help my followers feel accepted and validated.

How have your family helped you to deal with your spinal curve?

I am so lucky to come from a family that values emotions and talking about things openly. My mom has come to every appointment and is always there to debrief and talk with me openly about how I am feeling. My parents helped me stay grounded – when I was overwhelmed with emotions, they helped me sort everything out. They were not afraid to voice their opinions on treatment options, but they also let me know that it was my body and therefore I had the final say on everything.

My older sister played by far the most influential role. She was away at university on the other side of the country while I was in the midst of my scoliosis journey. She was there for me after every appointment and could always cheer me up. To my sister, who is probably reading this, thank you!

What advice would you give to people – parents, siblings, partners, friends, housemates – who are close to a scoliosis patient and want to support them?

The best advice I can give is to talk about it openly. Sometimes, we want to talk about our scoliosis and our experiences, but we might not be sure how. If you know we were at an appointment, or if you notice that we have maybe been acting a bit different than normal, it is okay to ask us how things went or if we need to talk. It shows that you’ve paid attention and you are trying your best to understand our journey.

It is also important to be understanding of our journey. Sometimes, we might have to say an activity causes us pain or discomfort, or maybe you said something that hurt our feelings or belittled our experiences. By telling you this, we don’t mean to blame you or to make you feel bad for your actions, but to simply enlighten you so we can avoid this issue in the future. If someone you know with scoliosis says, ‘I don’t like going on roller coasters because it hurts my back, maybe we can try going to the movies more often’, see this as an opportunity to do something new together. It takes a lot of courage for us to feel comfortable to voice these concerns with friends and family, and we do so because we genuinely love spending time with you, but we sometimes need to understand each other’s needs to minimise discomfort.

Finally, what’s the first thing you would say to a young person who has just been diagnosed with scoliosis?

As cheesy as it sounds, things get better. When I was diagnosed, I thought my life was over. It was the biggest deal and no matter what, everything seemed like bad news or just another complication to add to my growing list. But soon enough, you adjust to the brace. The X-rays become fun. The appointments become bonding time with your family and a great excuse to miss that class you’ve been dreading. Your scoliosis becomes a point of pride rather than disappointment, and you become stronger and more independent because of it.

And soon enough, you will forget what the brace felt like. Your scar will fade, the IV marks will disappear. The pain will ease and experiences will become memories. No journey is the same, and that’s the most amazing and precious thing about this condition – you are unique and special and that curved spine or titanium spine can become your greatest weakness or your greatest accomplishment. Only you can decide how you will let it affect you.

Be sure to follow @scolilife on Twitter for more scoliosis advice and experiences.

Further reading: