What is osteopenia, and how can it lead to adult degenerative scoliosis?

 
Osteopenia Bones
 
Osteopenia is a condition where the bones of the human body lose some of their density, making them more fragile and leading to an increased risk of fractures. Osteopenia often occurs naturally with age and is particularly common amongst post-menopausal women. However, there are certain things that may make you more susceptible to osteopenia:
  • Excessive drinking
  • Smoking
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Coeliac disease
  • Low BMI
  • Certain medications
Osteopenia develops gradually and has few symptoms. Many people with osteopenia don’t notice the condition at all until a relatively minor impact results in broken bones, and for this reason, most cases are not diagnosed until a fracture occurs.

Osteopenia vs. Osteoporosis: What’s the Difference?

If you’re familiar with a condition called osteoporosis, all of the above may sound somewhat familiar. Given that both conditions are characterised by a reduction in bone density (usually occurring in later life), you may even be wondering if osteopenia is just another name for osteoporosis.
 
Well, you’re half right: osteopenia is really just a milder form of osteoporosis. If you have osteopenia, your bone mass has begun to decrease, but your condition is not severe enough to be called osteoporosis. Osteopenia sometimes progresses to the point of full-blown osteoporosis, but many osteopenia sufferers remain in that transitional stage – not every case of osteopenia develops into a case of osteoporosis.
 
Both osteopenia and osteoporosis are diagnosed using something called a DEXA scan. During a DEXA scan, X-rays are used to analyse your bone mineral density; your results are then compared to a healthy person of your age and sex to find your so-called ‘T score’.

What Your T Score Means

  • Higher than -1 SD: You do not have osteopenia or osteoporosis.
  • -1 to -2.5 SD: You do not have osteoporosis, but you may be diagnosed with osteopenia.
  • Lower than -2.5 SD: You have osteoporosis.

Scoliosis Among Osteopenia / Osteoporosis Patients

Reduced bone density means weaker bones, and fractures aren’t necessarily the only thing that osteopenia / osteoporosis sufferers have to worry about. A spine that has been weakened by osteopenia is more likely to curve over time, and so osteopenia / osteoporosis patients are more likely to develop adult degenerative scoliosis than people with a healthy bone mineral density.
 
If you suffer from a curvature of the spine – whether it’s due to osteoporosis, osteopenia, or other factors entirely – please contact the Scoliosis SOS Clinic today to find out about our effective non-surgical treatment courses. Our helpful team of experts will be happy to help you with your condition. 
Scoliosis Scan
The first step for every Scoliosis SOS patient is attending our clinic for an initial consultation. At the beginning of your consultation, we will go through your medical records, evaluate any symptoms you’re currently experiencing, and ask you about any previous treatments you may have received for your back problems. Next, we will conduct a medical examination and evaluation of your spine and back; this means taking many measurements and performing a formetric scan of your back. 
A Formetric scoliosis scan is used to assess and monitor the curvature of your spine. This is done by isolating numerous anatomical markers of the patient’s back. From a Formetric scan, we’re able to quantitatively measure and record a patient’s body characteristics, posture, scoliosis, kyphosis, lordosis and many other forms of spinal deformity. The 4D software allows for measures to be taken over a period of time (up to 1 minute) to improve measurement precision. It has been shown to be a useful tool in reviewing the ‘actual state of the patient’ when compared to previous review methods. Furthermore, a Formetric scan does not require any further X-rays and radiation exposure.
In a short period of time, the Formetric 4D System can accurately evaluate:
  • Weight distribution
  • Pelvic position – including torsion, obliquity and anterior/posterior tilt
  • Waistline symmetry
  • Coronal (head above hips) balance
  • Sagittal (side-on) balance, including evaluation of kyphosis and lordosis
  • Shoulder levels
  • Scapular position
  • Neck alignment
Another form of scoliosis scan that we use here at Scoliosis SOS is the Pedoscan. This scan is used for analysis and recording of static and dynamic foot pressures alongside gait analysis. Using precise high-frequency pressure plates, a Pedoscan provides an intricate analysis of the weight distribution and behaviour of the patient’s feet both when standing still and during movement. This scan gives us an insight into how your spinal curve might be affecting your posture and walking habits.
If you wish to book an initial consultation at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, please complete the enquiry form on our Contact Us page.
Back pain treatment
Back pain is a very common ailment amongst people of all ages. It varies hugely in severity – ranging from a mildly uncomfortable ache to constant, debilitating agony – and can be brought on by all kinds of different triggers, including:
  • Poor posture
  • Lifting heavy objects (manual handling injuries)
  • Pulled muscles or ligaments
  • Stress / fatigue
  • Hard blows to the back (e.g. falling on your back)
  • Medical conditions such as scoliosis or spondylolisthesis
Most back pain gets better within a few weeks if not sooner. Sometimes, a simple change may be all that’s required to relieve your back pain – for example, if you suffer from back pain due to bad posture, correcting your posture should solve the problem.
Sometimes, however, the pain doesn’t go away (this is called ‘chronic pain’ or ‘persistent pain’). In this case, it may be necessary to seek treatment.

Treatment options for persistent back pain

If you are suffering from severe and/or persistent back pain, you should visit your GP. They will most likely recommend one (or more) of the following treatments:
  • Pain relief medication. In order to help you deal with the pain, your doctor may prescribe a course of painkillers. Different types of medication may be recommended depending on the severity of your pain and other factors: if you only require light pain relief, paracetamol or ibuprofen might do the trick, whereas particularly excruciating pain may require something stronger (such as codeine or tramadol). Always consult your GP before taking pain medication.
  • Physical therapy. In certain circumstances, physical therapy may be recommended as a way of reducing your pain and helping you to live your life normally. Some forms of physical therapy are available on the NHS, although if your pain is caused by an underlying medical issue, it may be a good idea to seek a specialised treatment course that is specifically tailored to your condition (e.g. ScolioGold therapy for scoliosis and other curvatures of the spine).
  • Surgery. Some causes of chronic back pain can be corrected via a surgical operation. For instance, if you have a severe case of scoliosis that’s causing persistent pain, spinal fusion surgery might be recommended as a possible solution. However, surgery is invasive and comes with many risks, and there are several alternatives to surgery that you should consider before undergoing an operation.
if you suffer from back pain and would like to arrange for a Specialist Spinal Physiotherapist to assess and treat your condition, please contact Scoliosis SOS on 0207 488 4428 to arrange an Initial Consultation.
Spondylolisthesis
 
The human spine (also known as the backbone or, more properly, the vertebral column) is made up of numerous small bones called vertebrae. When a vertebra is damaged or displaced, the knock-on effects can have serious consequences for the health of the entire back and even of the body as a whole.
 
One good example of this is a condition called spondylolisthesis.

What is spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis occurs when a vertebra slips out of place so that it is no longer aligned with the rest of the spine. This can happen for a number of reasons: some people are born with defects that lead to spondylolisthesis, but it can also be caused by a blow to the spine, a tumour, and the body’s natural ageing process, among other things.
 
Spondylolisthesis usually occurs in the lower (lumbar) spine, although it can happen further up too.

So, spondylolisthesis is the same as a slipped disc?

No. The phrase ‘slipped disc’ is perhaps a little misleading – it really has nothing to with vertebrae slipping out of place. Rather, a slipped disc occurs when one of the ‘discs’ that sit in between your vertebrae becomes ruptured. If this happens, the nucleus pulposus (a gel-like substance inside each disc) may bulge out through the wall of the disc, putting pressure on your nerves and resulting in pain.
 
This phenomenon is unrelated to spondylolisthesis, which affects the vertebrae rather than the discs that separate them.

Spondylolisthesis symptoms

Spondylolisthesis sufferers may notice some or all of the following symptoms:
  • Back pain and/or stiffness
  • Tightness of the leg muscles
  • Sciatica (pain or discomfort of the legs and/or buttocks)
  • Curvature of the spine (see below)
That being said, some people with spondylolisthesis don’t notice any symptoms at all.

Spondylolisthesis and scoliosis – what’s the connection?

As noted above, one possible outcome of spondylolisthesis is a curve in one’s spine. Scoliosis (a sideways curve) or hyperkyphosis (a forward curve) may develop due to the weakening of the backbone that occurs when a vertebrae moves out of place.
 
Scoliosis and hyperkyphosis can themselves lead to a number of health issues, including:
  • Back pain
  • Reduced mobility and/or flexibility
  • Compromised breathing
A curved spine can also have visible effects (e.g. uneven shoulders, prominent ribcage), which in turn may result in reduced self-esteem and a negative body image.

Treating scoliosis and spondylolisthesis

Whether your spine is curved as a result of spondylolisthesis or another underlying condition, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London can help you. Our exercise-based ScolioGold treatment programme has been fine-tuned to specifically address the needs of scoliosis and hyperkyphosis sufferers, and the results we achieve are consistently outstanding.
 
We use a variety of physiotherapy methods to treat those suffering from spondylolisthesis, such as: 
  • Schroth Method
  • Rigo-Schroth Method
  • FITS Method
  • PNF Technique 
  • SEAS Method
  • Taping
Click here to read about all the different methods we use to treat our patients’ spinal conditions.
For more information about our treatment courses, or to book an initial session with one of our consultants, please contact us today
Will My Child Have Scoliosis?
When you’re told for the first time that you have scoliosis, the diagnosis instantly raises a whole host of questions. How will this affect my daily life? Am I going to be in lots of pain? Will I need surgery? Of course, if you’re planning to have children at some point in your life, there’s another big question that may well pop into your head:

Will my child have scoliosis too?

We at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic are often asked this question by patients who are still learning about their condition. It seems as though a lot of scoliosis sufferers are troubled by the possibility that they might pass on their spinal curvature to their son or daughter, so today we’d like to take a closer look at this issue.

Is scoliosis passed on genetically?

For the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to talk exclusively about idiopathic scoliosis, by far the condition’s most common form. If your scoliosis is non-idiopathic and arose because of some underlying condition (such as osteoporosis or Marfan syndrome), you will need to research the underlying condition in order to assess the likelihood that your child will be affected. Idiopathic scoliosis, by definition, has no known cause, but it seems to occur as a result of genetic factors. However, that absolutely does not mean that idiopathic scoliosis sufferers always bear scoliotic children. Here are some statistics that may put your mind at ease:
  • Just 1 in 4 scoliosis sufferers (approx.) have at least one other case of scoliosis in their family.
  • If you are the child or sibling of a scoliosis sufferer, you have roughly an 11% chance of developing the condition yourself.
Bear in mind that lots of other variables still apply here: for example, scoliosis is far more likely to occur in females, so the risk of passing scoliosis on to your child is significantly lower if you’re expecting a boy.

How do I check if my child has scoliosis?

Here’s how to check your child for signs of scoliosis:
  • Ask your child to stand in front of you with their back to you. They will need to take off their top so that you can see their back and spine.
  • Firstly, check to see if both sides of their neck, shoulders, rib cage, waist and hips look even and symmetrical.
  • Secondly, ask your child to bend forwards from the waist. Look at both sides of their rib cage: does one side appear higher than the other?
This is called the Adams forward bending test – watch this video for a demonstration:

Remember, every body is unique, so some minor differences are to be expected – this may not indicate the presence of scoliosis. That being said, if you are concerned, it is a good idea to get your child checked by a medical professional.

If your child develops scoliosis…

Even if your child does develop a spinal curve as they grow, it’s important to remember that scoliosis sufferers can live just as well as people with healthy spines. Young scoliosis sufferers should be monitored closely, as medical observation will ensure that treatment can begin right away if and when it becomes necessary. Tackling scoliosis early (i.e. before the curve can progress too far) goes a long way towards limiting the condition’s effect on the patient’s health and quality of life – watch the video below for a real-life example of this (Lottie, a 12 year-old girl from Surrey).
An exercise-based treatment course that is specifically tailored to scoliosis patients (such as our own ScolioGold method) can be very effective at combating scoliosis, especially when it is still at an early stage. If you or your child need scoliosis treatment, please feel free to contact Scoliosis SOS and arrange a consultation with our scoliosis consultants.

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