Scoliosis explained
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with scoliosis and your spinal curvature is – for the moment – still relatively small, you may be wondering how your condition will affect you as it progresses (i.e. as the curve becomes more pronounced).
As your Cobb angle increases, the curve in your spine may impact your day-to-day life in a variety of different ways. However, please bear in mind that no two cases of scoliosis are completely identical, and some symptoms that appear prominently in one patient may not appear at all in the next! There is no guarantee that you will experience all of the below effects if your spinal curve continues to grow; the aim of this list is to give newly-diagnosed scoliotics a general idea of what to expect as the condition progresses.

How will scoliosis affect my appearance?

Scoliosis examples
The visual symptoms of scoliosis include:
  • Visibly curved back
  • Leaning to one side
  • Shoulders sitting at different heights
  • Uneven hips/waist/legs
  • One shoulder blade / one side of the rib cage protruding more prominently than the other
The visibility of these symptoms varies hugely from one patient to the next, although a greater curve will generally result in more immediately visible prominences and unevenness.

What will scoliosis feel like as it progresses?

As your curve grows, you may experience any or all of the following physical symptoms (again, severity varies massively from one case to the next):
  • Back pain
  • Pain in other parts of the body (e.g. legs, neck)
  • Reduced flexibility
  • Muscular imbalance (i.e. a weakening of the muscles on one side of the body)
  • Compromised breathing

How will scoliosis affect my everyday life?

Mild cases of scoliosis usually don’t have a significant impact on the patient’s mobility – it is reasonably rare for scoliosis to become so advanced that it qualifies as a disability. However, while you should be able to get around without too much difficulty, your spinal curvature may cause problems if you participate in sports (or other physically demanding pursuits) on a regular basis. As noted above, scoliosis can limit flexibility/range of movement and create a noticeable muscular imbalance, and these symptoms can be hugely detrimental to one’s performance in certain sports.
If you experience pain as a result of your spinal curve, you may need to start taking pain relief medication as it grows larger. The type and strength of the painkillers you take will depend on the degree of pain you are feeling – be sure to consult your GP if necessary, as they will be able to prescribe certain medications that are not available over the counter. Chronic pain can have a significant impact on a person’s overall quality of life, making it harder to work, socialise and relax, but taking pain relief medication can help to minimise that impact (although most painkillers come with risks and side-effects of their own).
Most of the above symptoms/effects of scoliosis can be halted, minimised, or even eliminated completely through proper treatment. Treatment options include bracing, surgery, and physical therapy programmes such as the ScolioGold treatment courses we provide here at Scoliosis SOS – click here to find out more.
What Does Scoliosis Look Like?
Scoliosis is a complex condition that comes in many different forms, varies greatly in severity from one patient to the next, and manifests itself in all kinds of different ways. The symptoms of scoliosis are many and varied: a curved spine can cause pain, stiffness, muscle imbalance, and even heart/lung problems in particularly critical cases.
However, for many scoliosis sufferers – particularly those who are young and have only recently been diagnosed – the most daunting potential consequence of spinal curvature is the impact it can have on one’s appearance.

How does scoliosis make you look?

Curvature of the spine can affect your appearance in a number of different ways. Common visible symptoms of scoliosis include:
  • A sideways lean
  • Uneven or tilted shoulders, hips, legs and/or rib cage
  • Unusually prominent shoulder blade and/or ribs on one side
The severity of these symptoms varies greatly. Some cases of scoliosis are virtually invisible (particularly when the patient is clothed), whereas more pronounced curves may result in very noticeable prominences and asymmetries that are difficult to conceal.

Scoliosis patient gallery

To give you a better idea of what scoliosis looks like, here are some photos of scoliosis sufferers who came to the Scoliosis SOS Clinic for treatment (N.B. these photographs were taken before treatment commenced).
Scoliosis Gallery

How to combat the visible symptoms of scoliosis

If you are concerned that your curved spine may have a dramatic impact on the way you look, there are a number of ways to minimise the visibility of your condition:
  • Certain types of clothing are better at concealing the signs of scoliosis than others – click here for advice.
  • If your scoliosis is particularly severe, you may require spinal fusion surgery to correct it. This procedure will diminish the visibility of your curve, but it is usually only offered to patients with a Cobb angle of at least 40-50 degrees.
  • Completing an exercise-based scoliosis treatment course can go a long way to reducing the visibility of your spinal curve. Here at Scoliosis SOS, we treat scoliosis sufferers using a method known as ScolioGold therapy that has proven very effective when it comes to reducing curve size.
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.
Scoliosis & Body Image
‘Body image’ is the name given to your perception of your own appearance. It is not necessarily linked to how others see you – someone may have a negative body image even if everyone else thinks they are very attractive.
A person’s body image can be affected by many different factors, although it is often argued that the media plays a particularly large role. Magazines and TV shows have frequently been accused of promoting a single, idealised standard of beauty, and this can adversely impact a person’s body image if they do not conform to that standard.
However, that’s a discussion for another day. Today we’d like to specifically look at the impact that scoliosis (a sideways curvature of the spine) can have on an individual’s body image.

The visible effects of scoliosis

The symptoms of scoliosis are many and varied. Many of them are invisible; for instance, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell whether a scoliosis patient was suffering from back pains, compromised breathing, or reduced flexibility just by looking at them.
However, if we’re talking about the impact scoliosis has on a person’s body image, it’s not the invisible symptoms we’re interested in – it’s the visible effects of the condition. Scoliosis sufferers are often identifiable by the following traits:
  • Visibly curved spine
  • Leaning to one side
  • Uneven shoulders, hips, legs, waist, and/or rib cage
These are the symptoms that can (and often do) negatively impact a scoliosis sufferer’s self-image. Because these physical characteristics depart from society’s definition of what a ‘normal’ body looks like, people with curved spines sometimes end up feeling ugly, unattractive, and/or awkward-looking.

Body image concerns amongst teenage scoliosis sufferers

Since idiopathic scoliosis (the most common form of scoliosis by some distance) usually develops during adolescence, there are many, many teenagers who suffer from scoliosis. If you’ve been through puberty, you’ll know that pre-teens and teenagers can be very sensitive about how they look – low body image is common even amongst teens without curved spines, and so the psychological impact of scoliosis on adolescents should be a key concern for those who seek to treat this condition.
The problem is that most forms of scoliosis treatment focus on halting the progression of the curve itself. This is an indisputably crucial goal, but helping scoliosis sufferers to achieve a positive body image is very important as well, especially given the impact that a negative body image can have on an individual’s mental health.

Boosting your body image

A little while ago, we conducted some research into our own ScolioGold treatment programme and its effect on patient body image. A detailed summary of this research project can be found here, but in case you’re not able to read the full document right now, here are our key findings in brief:
  • Patients reported a significant improvement in body image post-treatment.
  • All age groups (juvenile, adolescent and adult) reported substantial improvements.
  • These results suggest that intensive exercise-based programmes such as ScolioGold could be a very effective approach to treating certain psychological impacts of scoliosis.
Click here to find out more about our exercise-based treatment courses, or contact us today if you’d like to book a consultation.
Shoulder Pain
Given that scoliosis is a disorder of the spine, you might assume that the pain experienced by some scoliosis sufferers is exclusively concentrated in the back. But a person with a curved spine may also notice a degree of shoulder pain in addition to (or instead of) the more common back pains.

Why does scoliosis cause shoulder pain?

When a curved spine causes shoulder pain, it usually happens because the curve is located near the top of the spine and the muscles in this region are working harder than normal to control – and compensate for – the unusual angle. This puts a strain on those muscles, which may be felt as an ache or pain in the shoulder.

How severe is the pain?

The important thing to remember is that no two scoliosis patients have exactly the same experience. Even two people with exactly the same Cobb angle may report drastically different symptoms: one may feel no discomfort at all, while the other may be in such extreme pain that they require medication just to make it through the day.
The above applies to shoulder pain just as much as it applies to back pain. Shoulder pain (when it arises as the result of a spinal curvature) is usually limited to an achy or uncomfortable feeling – some scoliotics report feeling like they have a ‘knot’ in their shoulder – but it can be more severe in some cases.

How can shoulder pain be treated?

Extreme pain arising from a curvature of the spine may be treated using pain relief medication (various strengths may be prescribed depending on the severity of the pain). 
However, we at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic have found that an exercise-based physiotherapy regime – namely our own ScolioGold programme – can be very effective for relieving back and shoulder pain. We use a combination of methods, including Kinesio Taping and myofascial release, to reduce pain and inflammation while improving mobility and generally helping the patient to live a more comfortable life.
Phoebe from Crystal Palace is one of the many scoliosis sufferers whose shoulder pain we have helped to alleviate. Watch the video below to find out what she thought of her time at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic:

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