Scoliosis prevention

If you’ve been reading about scoliosis – perhaps here on the Scoliosis SOS blog, perhaps elsewhere – you may now find yourself wondering if there’s a way to prevent your own spine from curving; anything you can do to reduce your own chance of developing this condition and the many symptoms that tend to accompany it. That’s the question we’d like to address today: is it possible to prevent scoliosis?

No, scoliosis cannot generally be prevented…

It is not currently possible to prevent the onset of scoliosis. Most cases of scoliosis (around 80%) are idiopathic, which means that the cause is not known. Idiopathic scoliosis usually develops during puberty, so if your teenage or pre-teen child has recently been diagnosed with scoliosis, there’s a good chance it’s idiopathic. Since the cause of the curvature is unknown in these cases, it cannot be anticipated and no preventative action can be taken. Scoliosis can also occur as a symptom of numerous other conditions, including: Some of these underlying conditions can sometimes be prevented – for instance, exercise and a diet rich in vitamin D and calcium can help to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis – but others are passed on genetically, making it difficult to prevent these conditions and the spinal curvatures that they often cause. If you’re researching the subject online, you may come across some common myths related to scoliosis prevention. One particularly persistent myth is that bad posture can cause scoliosis. We debunked this myth in a previous blog post; although bad posture can adversely affect your overall health in a number of ways, it cannot lead to a sideways curvature of the spine. Likewise, carrying a heavy backpack has never been clinically proven to cause scoliosis, yet this is another commonly-quoted myth. So just to be clear: scoliosis cannot be prevented by sitting up straight or carrying fewer books!

…but it can be treated!

Though there is no effective way to prevent scoliosis entirely, it is possible to slow, halt, and even reverse the progression of the curvature before it starts to cause other health issues. Bracing, for instance, is a method that doctors frequently use to halt the progression of scoliosis in young people who are still growing. Physical therapy is also a proven method of slowing the progression of scoliosis. Treatment regimes such as our own ScolioGold method work to retrain the muscles in your back through a diverse course of stretches and techniques to help improve flexibility and strength in the back. Of course, surgery is another commonly-used scoliosis treatment method, but many scoliosis sufferers would understandably prefer to avoid this route! To find out how the Scoliosis SOS Clinic can help with your scoliosis symptoms, please contact us today to arrange a consultation.

Does Scoliosis Get Worse Over Time?

Scoliosis is an excessive sideways curvature of the spine. There are a few different types of scoliosis, including:
  • Idiopathic – The most common form of scoliosis usually appears during adolescence. The cause is not known, although it is thought to be genetic.
  • Congenital – This form of scoliosis occurs from birth due to the baby’s bones not developing properly in the womb.
  • Degenerative – Degenerative scoliosis occurs with age and the deterioration of the vertebrae in the spine.

Will my scoliosis get worse over time?

Being diagnosed with any form of scoliosis is difficult, and it’s natural to wonder if your spinal curve will progress in the future. Unfortunately, the answer is very often yes – if scoliosis is left without treatment, it will usually get progressively worse over time unless the patient seeks treatment for their condition. Especially in younger patients whose bodies are still growing, it is very likely that – without intervention – the degree of the curvature will increase as time goes on. This is due to the asymmetrical loading of the vertebrae on one side limiting bone growth in this area. In these cases, bracing is usually recommended to stunt the progression of the curve; if necessary, spinal fusion surgery may be recommended once the patient has stopped growing.

Can scoliosis progress even in adulthood?

It is a common misconception that, as the patient reaches adulthood and their body stops growing, scoliosis cannot progress any further. This is untrue; while the change may occur at a slower pace in a mature adult than in a child or adolescent, a scoliosis curvature can still progress by one to three degrees per year.

Case Study: 60-Year Old Max

Max was diagnosed with scoliosis when he was a teenager but, unfortunately, no treatment was offered to him at that time! Max is now 60-years old and, as we might expect, his scoliosis has got progressively worse over the course of his life. He visited chiropractors & physiotherapists but found that they only relieved his pain temporarily. ScolioGold Therapy has helped him make incredible progress & much of his scoliosis has now been completely cured! Watch our full interview with Max here:

What can I do to stop scoliosis getting worse over time?

Luckily, mild to moderate cases of scoliosis do not typically require surgical intervention. If the right steps are taken before the curve progresses too far, it is possible to improve the degree of curvature and your quality of life without undergoing an operation. The progression of a scoliotic spinal curve can be halted via a number of measures, such as:
  • Soft and hard bracing
  • Postural improvement
  • Physical therapy to improve muscle balance
Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London, our ambition is to help those suffering with scoliosis to improve their condition over time. We aim to reduce the degree of the curvature, reduce pain, improve flexibility, and boost the patient’s overall quality of life. We do this through a combination of different physical therapy treatments on our 4-week ScolioGold courses. Contact Scoliosis SOS to book a consultation with one of our scoliosis experts.

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For individuals with severe scoliosis, life can be very difficult indeed. Patients with a pronounced spinal curve may suffer from any number of symptoms, including chronic pain, limited mobility, and a low body image. In especially extreme cases, the curvature of the spine may cause serious problems with the patient’s lungs, limiting their ability to breathe – but every spinal curve is different, and the symptoms vary massively from one case to the next. The phrase ‘severe scoliosis’ usually refers to a case of scoliosis that has progressed to the point at which spinal fusion surgery is typically recommended. This is usually around 40-50 degrees, depending on your age and where in the world you live. In most cases, spinal curves this severe continue to worsen, and that is why spinal fusion is often recommended. In the vast majority of cases, severe scoliosis will drastically affect the posture and physical appearance of the patient, and surgery can be effective in reversing these changes to a certain extent. However, spinal fusion surgery is not always successful, and can pose some risks of its own.

What other treatment options are available?

While the procedure is relatively safe and successful in the majority of cases, many people are put off spinal surgery due to the risks involved. If you’d rather not undergo spinal fusion surgery to correct your severe scoliosis, your options are somewhat limited; bracing can be effective way to stop scoliosis progressing further, but a back brace cannot reverse the curvature that has already developed and is only used in patients who are still growing. But it’s not all bad news! We at Scoliosis SOS are able to treat severe scoliosis in patients of all ages without surgery and without the use of a brace. Our therapists treat scoliosis patients using a unique combination of non-surgical spinal techniques that we collectively call the ScolioGold method. Our treatment programme can help reduce your Cobb angle, provide pain relief, and help improve body image, boosting your sense of self-esteem. We have frequently treated patients with Cobb angles of 50 degrees or more – in fact, we have even helped patients with curves of up to 120 degrees!
Severe Scoliosis Before and After Treatment

A patient with severe scoliosis before (left) and after (right) ScolioGold treatment.

If you’d like to find out more about our ScolioGold method, click here. If you’d like to arrange an initial consultation, please contact us today. Further Reading: Coping with Severe Scoliosis
Spinal Fusion Surgery
 
Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that is commonly recommended in severe cases of scoliosis. In the UK, spinal fusion surgery will usually be considered as a treatment option once the patient’s spinal curve measures 40 degrees; in some other countries, it may not be recommended without a Cobb angle measurement of at least 50 degrees.
 
 

Does spinal fusion surgery have a high success rate?

There are lots of stories on the Internet about spinal fusion procedures that didn’t have the desired effect (i.e. reducing curvature, preventing further progression of the curve, and easing symptoms such as back pain). There are even some accounts of operations that made things worse, leaving the patient in more pain and even less able to move around freely.
 
It is true that spinal fusion surgery can go wrong, but in the majority of cases, there are no significant complications and the treatment works well. As Leah Stoltz, founder of the Curvy Girls support group for young scoliosis sufferers, told us when we interviewed her:
 
“Something I’ve noticed a lot is that you really only hear scary or worrisome stories of surgeries not going well. For the innumerable number of cases that go well, they don’t necessarily need to talk about it as much…that’s one of the reasons I try to talk about [my experience of spinal fusion surgery] so much.”
 
According to the University of Washington’s Department of Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, the average curve correction achieved when spinal fusion is carried out on someone under 16 with idiopathic scoliosis is roughly 70%. The operation carries a 2-3% risk of complications.
 

What complications can arise?

When complications do arise from spinal fusion surgery, they vary greatly in severity and seriousness. Possible complications include:
  • Infection
  • Failed fusion
  • Paralysis
However, as stated above, the risk of complication – especially severe complication – is very low.
 

Alternatives to spinal fusion surgery

If your scoliosis has progressed to the point where you are being considered for surgery, you have probably already tried other treatment methods such as bracing. However, even advanced cases of scoliosis (40-50 degrees and over) may be treated via a non-surgical, exercise-based programme such as ScolioGold.
 
ScolioGold
 
Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we have treated countless scoliosis patients who thought that surgery was their only remaining option. The ScolioGold method, our own carefully-selected combination of non-surgical treatment techniques, has proven very effective in relieving pain, reducing curvature, improving mobility and muscle balance, and improving overall quality of life.
 

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Scoliosis treatment without surgery
Scoliosis, a condition where the patient’s spine curves sideways, can be found in roughly 4% of the global population. Of those 4%, some have a very mild spinal curve that only measures 10-20 degrees, while others are more severely affected by the condition.
Generally speaking, once a scoliosis patient’s Cobb angle has progressed past the 40-degree mark (50 degrees in some territories), doctors will recommend spinal fusion surgery as the best course of action.
Now, there’s a reason why spinal fusion surgery is the standard treatment for severe scoliosis. The operation has a good overall success rate, achieving the desired effect (reducing curvature and preventing further progression) with no complications in the majority of cases.
However, there are a number of reasons why a scoliosis sufferer may wish to seek alternatives to spinal fusion:
  • All surgical procedures carry a certain level of risk – possible complications include infection and problems related to the anaesthesia used to sedate patients during surgery.
  • Spinal fusion surgery in particular can lead to a number of other complications, although the risk is very low. Read about the risks associated with scoliosis surgery here.
  • The spinal fusion procedure tends to be followed by a long recovery period, during which the patient may temporarily experience pain and reduced mobility/flexibility.
  • Depending on where you live, there may be a long waiting list for spinal fusion surgery, and time is imperative when your spinal curvature is still progressing. (This has been a particularly big problem in Ireland recently.)
  • The long-term effects of spinal fusion surgery on patients are still relatively unknown, especially as techniques keep changing. However, some patients may continue to experience or develop pain, while others find that a secondary curve forms above or below the fused area. Occasionally, it is necessary to undergo another operation to extend the fusion.

Treating scoliosis without surgery

With the above in mind, it’s perhaps easy to understand why a number of scoliosis patients are reluctant to undergo spinal fusion surgery. So what other treatments are available?
Mild to moderate cases of scoliosis are frequently treated using a Boston brace, but this approach doesn’t reverse the spinal curvature – it just aims to prevent it getting worse, and therefore it’s no use if your scoliosis is already quite severe or if you are an adult.
However, there are a number of non-surgical techniques that have been shown to reduce the Cobb angle and effectively combat the symptoms of scoliosis. Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we combine a number of these methods into our own unique scoliosis treatment programme called ScolioGold.
Here are some of the techniques we use to provide scoliosis sufferers with a real alternative to scoliosis surgery:
If you would like to learn more about our non-surgical scoliosis treatment courses, please call 0207 488 4428 or contact us online to arrange a consultation.