Scoliosis diagram

If you’re a scoliosis sufferer, learning all about your condition can be a daunting prospect, especially if you have only recently been diagnosed with a spinal curvature. There is a great deal of information available, from both reliable and untrustworthy sources, which can make the subject rather overwhelming and difficult to get your head around at first.

Here on the Scoliosis SOS blog, we are committed to informing those with spinal issues about their condition, as well as reassuring sufferers about the treatment options available to them. In today’s blog, we will be clearing up some of the common fears and myths that those with scoliosis are often exposed to – we hope that this will help you to understand more about your condition and how to manage it.

Tip: gather as much information as possible.

Once you’ve been diagnosed with scoliosis, it’s important to develop an understanding of the condition and explore the forms of treatment that are available to you. Seeking advice from a qualified medical professional is always the best place to start, but this does not mean that you shouldn’t seek out a variety of opinions and sources of advice. Here on our blog, we have covered a variety of topics and commonly-asked questions, ranging from where the condition comes from to the pros and cons of undergoing surgery.

Remember, your scoliosis is not your fault.

Many scoliosis sufferers and their family members worry that they have caused scoliosis to develop by engaging in or encouraging certain activities or lifestyle habits. In truth, however, the vast majority of scoliosis sufferers have idiopathic scoliosis, which means that there is no clear cause behind the development of the spinal curve. Most other forms of scoliosis are caused by underlying medical conditions that the patient has no control over, such as neuromuscular disorders, birth defect, or simply getting older.

Surgery is not the only option.

Many believe that spinal fusion surgery is the only effective treatment option for scoliosis, but this is simply not the case. In fact, many cases of scoliosis do not require surgical intervention at all, especially if the angle of the curve falls short of the 40-50 degree range that is normally used as the threshold for recommending surgery. Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we have helped patients with curves ranging from mild to severe, allowing them to reduce their Cobb angle and level of pain using proven non-surgical methods.

Scoliosis should not prevent you from achieving your goals. 

One of the biggest worries for those diagnosed with scoliosis is the fear that it will be a permanent restriction on their life. Whether it’s a career aspiration or much-loved hobby, the thought of not being able to live your life according to your passions and aspirations can be completely disheartening, taking a toll on your mental health as well as your physical well-being. The good news for those who have experienced these feelings of uncertainty is that scoliosis does not have to place unnecessary restrictions on the way you live your life. Many individuals with scoliosis go on to have successful careers and lead incredibly active lifestyles, even competing in sports at a competitive level. One incredibly famous example is none other than Olympic athlete Usain Bolt

Scoliosis does not impact your ability to get pregnant or give birth.

One commonly-circulated myth about scoliosis is that it causes difficulties during labour and reduces your ability to conceive. This is almost completely untrue, as scoliosis has no effect on conception and in the majority of cases does not impact the patient’s ability to give birth naturally. You should make your midwife aware of your condition, however, especially if you wish to have an epidural, as the anaesthetist will need to adjust their approach when injecting your spine.

There is support available to you.

The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone, and that there are a variety of support networks available for those who are suffering with scoliosis and their families. From charities such as Scoliosis Association UK to groups like Curvy Girls, you will find an abundance of online support sites and forums that connect scoliosis sufferers from all over the UK and beyond. It can be a great help to speak with those who share your experiences and understand what it’s like to live with scoliosis, which is why we often find that patients who meet during our courses tend to keep in touch after their therapy.

Get in touch with Scoliosis SOS to find out more about our non-surgical treatment courses for scoliosis sufferers.
How is Scoliosis Measured?
With scoliosis affecting over 4% of the world’s population, it is easy to understand why many people would like to know the ins and outs of the process by which scoliosis is measured. Scoliosis is a medical condition that is characterised by a curvature of the spine and causes symptoms such as back pain, visible prominence and compromised breathing. To be diagnosed with scoliosis, the angle of your curvature must generally be at least 10 degrees. When measuring scoliosis, the curve is considered ‘significant’ if it is greater than 25-30 degrees and ‘severe’ if exceeding 45-50 degrees. 

Measuring and diagnosing scoliosis

In an initial consultation to measure and diagnose the severity of your scoliosis, the consultant will usually begin by looking for specific symptoms such as:
  • Uneven shoulders, hips, waist, legs or rib cage
  • One shoulder blade being more prominent than the other
  • Leaning to one side
After this stage, your consultant will also obtain your medical history in order to understand any symptoms you are currently experiencing which could influence your condition. They will also need details of any treatment you have previously received for your back to complete a full understanding of your spinal condition.
When the patient is a child, these details need to be discussed in order for the doctor to understand how much further the child will grow and if there is a history of the condition in the family. When diagnosing children, the Adam’s forward bend test is usually used: this requires your child to bend at the waist with their feet held together, arms extended and palms touching. The Adam’s forward bend test examines side-to-side asymmetry using a scoliometer. If any abnormalities (e.g. uneven shoulder blades) are apparent, the consultation will then move on to the second stage of measuring scoliosis.
Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, the second step when measuring scoliosis is a medical examination of the spine and back. Two measurements can be used, the first being an X-ray examination to assess of the rotation of the spine. The curvature of the spine is then measured using the Cobb method and the severity of the scoliosis is determined by assessing the angle of the curve. Identifying the patient’s Cobb angle is essential to measuring scoliosis as it helps to identify magnitude of the spinal deformity. 
Cobb angle
The Cobb angle is calculated by measuring the angle between the most tilted vertebrae above and below the curvature. Perpendicular lines are drawn from the top of the highest vertebrae in the curve and the bottom of the lowest vertebrae in the curve. When these lines intersect, it gives us the Cobb angle, and this measurement tells us how severe the condition is.
The second measurement utilised at our clinic is a radiation-free back scan, which uses light and photography to digitally analyse your back shape and profile. This scan will then be discussed with you in full, and you will be provided with your own copy for your records.
At the end of your consultation, you will be provided with details on the degree of your spinal curvature and advice on the best next steps to take with your condition.
To find out more information about our non-surgical treatment courses, please click here.  We have treated numerous patients suffering from scoliosis over the years, and the results speak for themselves. If you’d be interested in learning more about what we do, please get in touch with us today.
scoliosis operation
 
If you have a particularly severe spinal curve or are considered to be at risk of further curve progression, it is likely that you will be offered the option of undergoing spinal fusion surgery to correct your scoliosis. While it is true that spinal surgery is a major operation that involves some risky procedures, there is also a lot of misinformation surrounding the subject, which can make things extremely stressful and intimidating for those who are thinking of undergoing the procedure.
 
To clear up some of these issues, and to provide more information for sufferers who have been offered a scoliosis operation, we have assembled a list of some of the most commonly-asked questions on this topic, complete with answers:
 
Q. How severe does your curve have to be before you’re offered the scoliosis operation? 
 
A. Although there is some debate regarding the threshold for scoliosis surgery, many doctors will recommend the operation to those who have a Cobb angle greater than 40-50 degrees. 
 
Q. Does it take a long time to recover after a scoliosis operation?
 
A.  Although recovery times can vary somewhat from patient to patient, those who undergo surgery should expect to be out of action for some time following their scoliosis operation. After surgery patients will generally stay in the hospital for three or four days, although this may increase depending on the extent of the operation. Your activity will be limited until the doctor can see evidence of healing, which can take up to 6 weeks. Large-scale healing will not take place until 4-6 months after the surgery, after which activity can be increased once more. We can help with the spinal fusion recovery process here at Scoliosis SOS – click here for more information.
 
Q. Can surgery cause paralysis?
 
A. Like any form of surgery, scoliosis operations can carry additional risks to the patient’s overall health and wellbeing. This fact is important to consider before undergoing surgery, but should not be used to scare patients unnecessarily. There are several possible risks associated with scoliosis surgery, including paralysis and other neurological complaints. The actual risk of experiencing these risks, however, is very low, with paralysis occurring in less than 1% of cases.
 
Q. What happens to my spine during my scoliosis operation?
 
A. The operation used to treat scoliosis is referred to as spinal fusion surgery, and it involves anchoring a series of rods to your spine, reducing the angle of your curve and serving as a splint to hold the spine in place. Following this, a bone graft (sometimes real, sometimes synthetic) will be applied to eventually fuse with your spine, preventing the curve from progressing any further. You can find out more about the process here.
 
Q. Can I still have a baby after undergoing spinal fusion surgery?
 
A. Yes – there is no reason why someone who has undergone a scoliosis operation should not be able to conceive (unless there are other mitigating factors to take into account). In addition, most women who have undergone spinal fusion will still be able to give birth naturally, as this does not necessarily increase your risk of having to undergo a C-section.
 
Q. Is there anything I can do to improve my recovery after my scoliosis operation?
 
A. If you are having difficulties with your recovery, or are finding that some aspects of your scoliosis have not improved in the way you would have liked, it is possible to seek post-fusion therapy. Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we provide assistance with back pain, mobility, secondary curves and more. Find out more about the spinal fusion recovery services we can offer here.
 
Q. Will the rods stay in my back, or will I have to have them removed?
 
A. Yes, in the vast majority of cases the rods are implanted for life, due to the serious nature of the operation and possible complications associated with removing them. Rods are removed in around 2% of cases, the most common cause for this being the irritation of the overlying muscles. In most cases, the fusion will hold despite removing the rods, although in some cases it is possible that bending may occur.
 
Q. Can my symptoms be reduced without undergoing an operation? 
 
A.  Although surgery may sometimes be the only option for correcting a severe spinal curve, it is often possible to reduce the symptoms of scoliosis without undergoing surgery. Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London, we provide effective treatment to patients from all over the world who have been told that they require an operation for their scoliosis. To find out more about our ScolioGold treatment programme, please click here or visit our video experiences page.
 
Would you like to speak to us about how our non-surgical scoliosis therapy programmes can help to avoid a scoliosis operation? Get in touch to find out more or to book a consultation.
Model Lily Crawford - Scoliosis SOS Patient
Scoliosis can have a serious impact on a patient’s confidence, especially if their cosmetic appearance means they cannot pursue their dreams. 

Lily’s Story

Lily Crawford from Yeovil, Somerset was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was just ten years old. She had always had her heart set on becoming a model. However, with her spine drastically curving, Lily lost her confidence and started to hate her back and how it was making her feel. She had almost accepted that her condition was going to mean modelling was out of the question. In her head models were perfect and no agency would ever accept her with her spinal condition.
Lily’s mother was extremely concerned about her daughter’s health and how the condition was affecting her psychologically. It was then that she discovered Scoliosis SOS, a specialist clinic which helps people manage their spinal conditions non-surgically. Lily embarked on a life changing 4 week course at the centre, which significantly improved the cosmetic appearance of her back and enabled her to fully come to terms with her condition.
Scoliosis Article in Yeovil Express
Here at Scoliosis SOS we tailor our treatment to ensure the focus is placed on the symptoms of the condition that are the most important to the patient. In Lily’s case, she was not suffering from any pain and was desperate to reduce the asymmetries surrounding her shoulders and hips. Our exercises strengthen and stretch the muscles surrounding the spine which brings the patient into a corrected upright posture.  The exercises retrain the muscles so that they are able to support the patient in their new posture. This allows us to achieve fantastic improvements to patients’ back shape and most importantly prevents further progression.
Click here to take a look at some of the positive changes our other patients have made to their spines or contact Scoliosis SOS to discuss treatment options for your back condition.
Wearing a scoliosis brace
 
The curvature of the spine can be treated in a number of different ways, but one of the most commonly-prescribed treatment methods of all is the scoliosis brace. Scoliosis patients will often wear a rigid plastic shell known as a ‘Boston brace’ for as much as 23 hours a day, removing the brace only to bathe or shower.

Is bracing an effective treatment for scoliosis?

Bracing is usually only recommended if the patient is still growing. The Boston brace is most commonly worn by children and teenagers who are still going through (or have yet to undergo) the adolescent growth spurt.
 
The aim of the scoliosis brace is not to reverse the patient’s spinal curvature or reduce their Cobb angle measurement. However, bracing can sometimes be an effective way to halt the progression of the curve; in other words, a scoliosis brace won’t make scoliosis get better, but it may stop it from getting any worse.
 
Scoliosis patients in the UK who exhibit a spinal curve of 40 degrees or more are often referred for spinal fusion surgery. If your spinal curve measures between 20 and 40 degrees and your body is not yet fully-grown, you may well have to wear a Boston brace to stop the curve progressing any further while you finish growing. Hopefully, the back brace will keep you from reaching the point of needing surgery.

Are scoliosis braces uncomfortable?

Of course, while most scoliosis patients are happy to wear a Boston brace if it means avoiding a surgical procedure, this treatment method does have its downsides. Some scoliosis brace wearers find the brace uncomfortable, especially during the summer months when the weather is hot and the extra insulation is unwelcome. It can also take a while to get used to sleeping with the brace on.
 
Furthermore, a scoliosis brace may somewhat limit the wearer’s ability to move around. While your brace probably won’t be restrictive enough to disrupt your daily routine, you may find that it affects your performance if you engage in sports or other very physical activities on a regular basis.

Will the scoliosis brace be visible through my clothes?

In addition to the discomfort associated with wearing a Boston brace, many young scoliosis sufferers worry about the aesthetic implications of wearing a rigid plastic shell under their clothes every day. Most brace wearers are school-aged, and the possibility that the brace will make them look strange can understandably be a source of much anxiety for these young people.
 
Fortunately, modern scoliosis braces are very well-designed – each one is moulded to fit the shape of the wearer’s body, and nowadays they tend to be very difficult to see when concealed by loose-fitting clothes.

How long will I have to wear my scoliosis brace?

In most cases, the patient will have to continue wearing their brace for as long as their spines continue to grow. For girls, this usually means 2 to 2.5 years post menarche; boys usually have to wear the brace until the age of 15-16. However, girls tend to stop growing a couple of years before boys.

Are there any alternatives to bracing?

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we use our own unique treatment method – ScolioGold therapy – to treat scoliosis patients and other individuals with curved spines. Unlike some braces, our approach has been shown to reduce the Cobb angle and effectively reverse the progression of scoliosis.
 
Mia, a 13-year-old girl from Bromley, came to our clinic a couple of years ago. Our ScolioGold treatment course decreased her spinal curve to the point that she was able to stop wearing her scoliosis brace during the day and only put it on at night.
 
 
Contact Scoliosis SOS below to find out more about our treatment courses and arrange an initial consultation with our scoliosis consultants.