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!
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 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.”
What complications can arise?
When complications do arise from spinal fusion surgery, they vary greatly in severity and seriousness. Possible complications include:
- Failed fusion
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
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.
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.