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
One of the worst things about scoliosis
(sideways curvature of the spine) is the fact that, very often, the condition becomes more and more pronounced as time goes by. A curve that is barely noticeable to begin with can become seriously problematic and disfiguring if left untreated for long enough.
But how long does it take for a spinal curve to reach that point? How quickly does scoliosis progress, and how long can you safely go without treatment?
As usual, every case is different.
Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast answer to either of the above questions. Some spinal curves don’t progress at all after a certain point, while others progress very rapidly and continue to do so until action is taken.
Let’s take a look at the most common form of scoliosis – idiopathic scoliosis
. In most cases of idiopathic scoliosis, the curve develops around the time the patient hits puberty, then continues to progress throughout their adolescence until their spine has finished growing (usually at age 16-18). However, the rate of progression can vary greatly from one person to the next, and there’s no guarantee that the progression will cease as soon as the patient stops growing. No two cases are alike!
Things get even more complicated when you take into account all the other different forms of scoliosis. While most cases of scoliosis are idiopathic (i.e. lacking a clear underlying cause), the condition can also be triggered by any number of other factors, from neuromuscular diseases to the human body’s natural ageing process. The type of scoliosis you have makes a huge difference to the speed at which your condition progresses (if indeed it progresses at all).
How to stop a spinal curve from progressing
Once scoliosis has been diagnosed, there are a number of different ways to prevent it from progressing any further. For some patients – particularly young children with very mild scoliosis – medical practitioners may simply recommend observation (closely monitoring the spinal curve and watching for changes) as the best way forward. However, in most cases, one or more of the following treatment methods will be used:
- Bracing – The patient wears a rigid plastic back brace to effectively hold their spine in place and prevent it from becoming any more curved than it already is.
- Spinal Fusion Surgery – A surgical procedure where metal rods are used to anchor the spine in place.
- Physical Therapy – A non-invasive approach that uses stretches and exercises to correct the curvature and prevent further progression.
ScolioGold therapy, which we use to treat curved spines here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, is an example of the third treatment method. To read more about ScolioGold and the use of physical therapy to treat scoliosis, please click here
Even in its mildest form, scoliosis can have an immense impact on a person’s life; at its most severe, it can practically prevent people from living their lives at all.
The definition of what exactly constitutes severe scoliosis
tends to vary depending on who you’re asking. Some specialists define as ‘severe’ any case where the Cobb angle
is greater than 55 degrees (in fully-grown patients; the threshold for adolescents and children is lower). This is roughly the line beyond which surgery tends to be recommended as a suitable course of treatment.
However, while the Cobb angle is a useful tool for measuring the progress of scoliosis, that number is not necessarily the be-all and end-all when it comes to determining the true severity of a scoliosis sufferer’s condition. Many people have walked through the doors of the Scoliosis SOS Clinic with curves a long way short of that 55-degree threshold that nevertheless makes life miserable for the patients themselves. Symptoms such as chronic pain, limited mobility, and reduced self-esteem are not exclusive to those with a Cobb angle of 55+ degrees, and patients who are over that line don’t necessarily suffer any more than those who aren’t. Every patient is unique, and the treatment provided ought to reflect that fact.
Help for those with severe scoliosis
The effects of severe scoliosis are multifaceted and can be dealt with in a number of different ways. Doctors may prescribe medication to help with chronic pain, whereas the psychological impact of scoliosis (e.g. negative body image, low self-esteem) can sometimes be helped by counselling.
As mentioned, surgery is often recommended as a means of correcting more pronounced spinal curvatures, but this is not always necessary, even in severe cases. Here at Scoliosis SOS, we routinely treat patients with Cobb angle measurements of 60 degrees or more – in fact, our ScolioGold
treatment courses have helped people exhibiting curves of up to 120 degrees
Here’s what our treatment programmes can achieve for people with severe scoliosis:
Our exercise-based courses can also significantly improve the flexibility and mobility of scoliosis sufferers, helping them to enjoy a better quality of life all around.
Severe scoliosis – before and after:
A patient with severe scoliosis, before (left) and after (right) ScolioGold treatment.
Take a look at our video here where we helped treat a patient suffering from severe scoliosis and a 55-degree Cobb angle:
You can find more information about our treatment courses to help with your severe scoliosis or contact us to arrange an initial consultation (this can be conducted via Skype or over the phone if you are unable to visit our clinic in person) below!