Several individuals with scoliosis (a sideways curvature of the spine)

Every year, scoliosis sufferers and those close to them recognise the month of June as Scoliosis Awareness Month. This is an annual opportunity for people all over the world to come together, speak out about life with a curved spine, and educate others about what it means to have scoliosis.

This month-long event culminates in International Scoliosis Awareness Day, which falls on the last Saturday of June (meaning that the date to remember this year is 30th June 2018). The UK Scoliosis Association (SAUK) launched International Scoliosis Awareness Day five years ago - here, in the organisation's own words, is why they did it:

"SAUK launched ISAD in 2013 to unite people across the world to create positive public awareness of scoliosis, promote education, and bring together those affected."

 

How do people mark Scoliosis Awareness Month?

People mark this annual occasion in a number of different ways. If you use Twitter, you may already have seen the hashtag #ScoliosisAwarenessMonth doing the rounds - scoliosis sufferers are using this tag to share their stories, their X-ray scans, and photos of their curved backs and surgery scars. All of these posts are intermingled with advice for fellow scoliosis patients and useful information about the condition.

There are also a number of events taking place in recognition of Scoliosis Awareness Month. Last year, for instance, the Curvy Girls support group organised a large walk in New Jersey to raise awareness of spinal curvature.

 

4 things you should know about scoliosis

We're keen to do our bit for Scoliosis Awareness Month too, so here - for the benefit of anyone who is unfamiliar with this condition - are 4 things we think everyone should know about scoliosis. Feel free to share this post to help raise awareness!

1. What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition where the spine curves sideways, often resulting in symptoms such as pain, reduced flexibility, muscular imbalance, and (in extreme cases) compromised breathing. Read more >

For a rough idea of what scoliosis looks like, consult the diagram below. However, do bear in mind that every case of scoliosis is different - symptoms, severity, and curve location vary hugely from one person to the next.

Scoliosis symptoms

2. How common is scoliosis?

Scoliosis affects roughly 4% of people worldwide (i.e. approximately 1 in 25 people). It can occur in any individual regardless of age or gender; however, it is most commonly found in adolescent girls. Read more >

3. What causes scoliosis?

There are many different types of scoliosis with many possible causes. By far the most common form is idiopathic scoliosis, which usually develops during adolescence and has no known cause, though it is thought to be linked to genetic factors.

However, scoliosis can also be caused by:

  • Birth defects
  • Old age
  • A wide range of conditions including muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, spondylolisthesis, and many more

It's worth noting that scoliosis is NOT caused by carrying heavy bags, though this is a common misconception. Read more >

4. How is scoliosis treated?

Scoliosis can be treated using a number of different methods, with bracing and spinal fusion surgery being the most common. Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London, England, we treat scoliosis using a combination of non-surgical, exercise-based techniques that we collectively call the ScolioGold method. This approach - using physical therapy to reduce the patient's spinal curve and improve their quality of life - has shown itself to be very effective. View results >

If you need more information about scoliosis, or if you're interested in the treatment courses we provide here at Scoliosis SOS, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Spondylosis

Spondylosis, also known as osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease, is a painful condition caused by degeneration of the vertebrae within the spine. It can occur in the neck (cervical spondylosis), the upper back (thoracic spondylosis) or the lower back (lumbar spondylosis). In severe cases, it can also affect more than one region of the spine - this is known as multilevel spondylosis. 

The term spondylosis can be used to describe a range of different degenerative spinal conditions that can occur as a person ages. If you have been diagnosed with spondylosis, ask your GP what specific type of spondylosis you have, as this may determine the best treatment method(s) for your condition.

What causes spondylosis? 

Over many years, almost every part of your body is affected by general wear and tear. This includes your spine, and spondylosis is caused by the soft tissue in the spine (including spinal discs, muscles, tendons, cartilage and ligaments) deteriorating over time. This in turn can cause a deterioration of the spine that leads to stiffness and pain in the back.

Spondylosis can also be hereditary. That's not to say you will definitely get spondylosis if a family member has it, but it may mean that your body is predisposed to spondylosis. There are several other factors that can increase your risk of developing spondylosis:

  • If you have a high BMI, this can put an increased level of strain on your spine, which may lead to quicker and further deterioration of the spine.
  • If you smoke, it can dehydrate the discs in your spine, causing more wear and tear and potentially leading to spondylosis. 

Can you prevent spondylosis? 

As spondylosis is predominantly caused by old age and can be hereditary in cases, it is difficult to prevent. However, certain lifestyle changes can be made to help decrease the chance of spondylosis developing. These include:

  • Regular Exercise - As hard as it can sometimes be to get to the gym, exercise is key to maintaining good general health. Weightlifting can also help to increase bone density.
  • Stretching Often - Stretching can help reduce any pressure placed on your spine from tension. Try to stretch every morning and regularly throughout the day.
  • Balanced Diet - You may be tired of hearing this one, but a balanced diet is necessary to a healthy life. Not only that, getting the vitamins your body needs helps look after your bone and can help your body to withstand wear and tear better.

Can spondylosis be treated?

Most of those diagnosed with spondylosis do not need to undergo surgery. In the majority of cases, the primary aim is to treat the pain caused by this condition. Here are some common treatment methods:

  • Physical Therapy - This treatment method helps to build back muscles and increase flexibility. Increased strength in the back can help decrease the pain caused by spondylosis.
  • Acupuncture - Often used to relieve back and neck pain, acupuncture involves inserting tiny needles into parts of the body in an effort to reduce the discomfort caused by spondylosis. 
  • Lifestyle Changes - As mentioned above, lifestyle changes such as losing weight and eating more nutritious food can help to improve spinal health. After a spondylosis diagnosis, it is especially important to maintain these positive habits.

If you suffer from spinal curvature as a result of spondylosis or a similar condition, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic may be able to help. Learn about our treatment courses or get in touch to arrange an initial consultation.

Harrington rods for scoliosis

If you suffer from scoliosis, you will probably have looked into the various treatment options for this condition. Today, we're going to look at the pros and cons of one specific treatment method: spinal fusion surgery using Harrington rods.

What are Harrington rods?

Developed in the early 1960s by Dr Paul Harrington, the Harrington rod is a straight rod that contains a ratcheting mechanism. These rods are used in spinal fusion surgery to reduce the curvature of the patient's spine.

The rod is positioned along the concavity (inside) of the spinal curve and attached to the spine using two hooks - one attached to a vertebra at the bottom of the curve and the other to a vertebra at top of the curve. Then, employing the ratcheting mechanism, the surgeon stretches the spine to straighten the curve and fuses into position.

Do Harrington rods help to correct scoliosis?

For 20 years, Harrington rods were seen at the 'gold standard' for spinal fusion surgery - if you underwent spinal fusion surgery before the year 2000, the surgeon most likely used Harrington rods. This procedure was routinely recommended for any patients with a spinal curve exceeding 45 degrees.

These days, however, there are a number of alternatives for scoliosis patients who require surgery. You can read about these more modern methods here.

Harrington rods have been successful in many cases of scoliosis, but they also come with a number of risks and limitations.

What are the risks and limitations of Harrington rods?

As with all surgical operations, there are risks involved with the procedure described above. This intrusive operation requires the surgeon to remove spinal discs and muscle so that the rod can be inserted and screwed onto the vertebrae. The spine is then bent forcefully and fused into that position. Infection is one possible complication - other potential risks include:

  • Bending and breaking of the rod
  • Hardware migration
  • Pseudoarthrosis
  • Flat back syndrome

Furthermore, this surgery is not recommended for patients whose spines are still growing. Performing a spinal fusion on a growing child can lead to a number of complications, such as the Crankshaft phenomenon. As young spines continue to grow there is a chance the spinal curve will also change, which may mean the rod will end up causing further complications.

What are the alternatives to surgery?

In some very severe cases, surgery is the only way to ensure that a spinal curve will not get any worse. In most cases, however, there are plenty of other scoliosis treatment methods available that do not involve intrusive, potentially risky surgical procedures.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we offer a non-surgical scoliosis treatment programme called ScolioGold therapy, which combines a number of effective techniques to improve patient's condition. To see how effective non-surgical treatments can be, have a look at our results and see how we have reduced our patients' Cobb angles without surgical intervention.

If you have any more questions about scoliosis surgery and how our non-surgical approach can help you with your back condition, please get in touch today.

Neck pain and computer use

Neck pain is strongly associated with excessive use of computers.

Office workers have a higher incidence of neck pain than people in any other occupation. However, the relationship between symptoms and risk factors is currently still unclear.

A recent research study was conducted by the University of Queensland to examine the relationship between self-reported neck pain and a range of individual and work-related factors. Office workers both with and without neck pain were recruited for the study.

All participants completed a survey, which included a numerical pain rating scale and such independent variables as:

  • Demographic
  • Individual
  • Work-related factors
  • Neck/shoulder muscle strength
  • Endurance
  • Range of motion

So what were the results of the study?

Neck pain was significantly associated with females in senior occupational roles and those working more than 6 hours a day on the computer, which resulted in a reduced cervical flexion.

Many of our patients here at Scoliosis SOS find that they struggle with being seated at a computer for long periods of time. There are lots of ways in which patients can adapt their seated position to ensure they stay in their corrected posture. We encourage patients to take regular breaks from their computers and ensure they know how to cope when working at a desk.

If you suffer from scoliosis or neck pain, please contact us today. Our experts can offer advice, treatment and a spinal/ergonomic assessment.

Children's scoliosis treatment

Here's what we always tell the parents of children with scoliosis: the sooner we are able to start your child's scoliosis exercises, the better our chance of preventing further progression and avoiding the need for spinal fusion surgery.

However, in order for the exercises to be effective, the patient must be old enough to follow simple instructions and actively work on certain muscle groups.

We have successfully treated many young children from the age of 4 upwards. Younger children may benefit from some hands-on manipulation and massage therapy, but they cannot reap all the benefits of our ScolioGold programme because they are less able to follow our therapists' instructions and carry out all of the necessary exercises.

Keep a close eye on your child's back as they go through their teenage years

In most cases, the question of whether or not the patient is old enough to undergo scoliosis treatment never arises. Scoliosis normally doesn't become apparent until a child goes through puberty; the appearance of a spinal curve usually coincides with the major growth spurt that tends to occur at this stage of a person's life.

Still, while it is far less common, scoliosis can also be present from birth. This is known as either congenital scoliosis or neuromuscular scoliosis. In these cases, patients are often braced from a very young age to prevent progression as much as possible.

Key signs and symptoms

Back pain is a common complaint in both children and adults with scoliosis. The NHS outlines several other signs to look out for:

  • A visibly curved spine
  • Leaning to one side
  • Uneven shoulders
  • One shoulder or hip sticking out
  • Ribs sticking out on one side
  • Clothes not fitting well

Compliance is important

The results achieved through our ScolioGold exercises are strongly dependent on the patient's commitment and compliance. This is something that varies based on the child's personality; if you're wondering whether or not your child is old enough for a Scoliosis SOS treatment course, you should also consider whether or not they would be happy to follow our instructions.

ScolioGold exercises are repetitive and easy enough for children to follow. Shorter, specially-tailored exercise programmes are available for younger patients based on their maturity level. These programmes aim to turn treatment into play to help engage little ones during their therapy.

If you have any concerns regarding your son/daughter's spine, please contact Scoliosis SOS online or call 0207 488 4428 to arrange a radiation-free spinal scan.

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