Learning that you may need surgery is a very scary experience. Every surgical procedure comes with a certain level of risk, and no matter how experienced the surgeons are, it takes a great deal of bravery to place your life in their hands.
Every year, countless scoliosis
sufferers around the world are told that they require surgery to correct their condition. Naturally, a lot of those people would rather avoid surgical intervention if at all possible, but before we explore potential alternatives to scoliosis surgery, let's take a closer look at what the operation actually involves.
What does scoliosis surgery involve?
The surgical operation that's commonly used to correct scoliosis is known as spinal fusion surgery. It is performed under general anaesthetic, so you'll be completely unconscious throughout the operation.
During the procedure, your surgeon will anchor a series of rods to your spine using tiny hooks and screws. These rods will reduce the angle of your scoliotic curve and serve as a splint to hold the spine in place. The surgeon will then apply a bone graft to your spine - this bone will eventually fuse with your spine, the aim being to prevent your curve from progressing any further. (The rods are a temporary measure, holding the spine in place until the 'fusion' process is complete; however, the rods are usually not removed as to do so would require another large and potentially risky surgical operation.)
A spinal fusion operation tends to be followed by a lengthy recovery period, during which some pain, discomfort, and loss of mobility are to be expected. However, in the long term, the surgery should mean that your scoliosis doesn't progress any further, and that your spinal curve has a smaller impact on your overall quality of life.
What risks are associated with scoliosis surgery?
As we mentioned earlier, all surgical procedures come with certain risks, and scoliosis surgery is no different. The risks/complications associated with spinal fusion surgery include:
- Implants coming loose or breaking
- Nerve damage
- Blood clots
- Development of a secondary curve
Furthermore, the Internet is littered with sad stories of scoliosis operations that simply didn't have the intended effect. Some patients (including two contributors to this painsupport.co.uk thread
) even find themselves in more pain post-op than prior to the spinal fusion procedure.
Is it possible to treat scoliosis without surgery?
While scoliosis surgery can be - and very often is - an effective means of combating scoliosis, it is easy to see why many scoliotics would rather not go under the knife if possible. Fortunately for these people, there is an alternative.
Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic
, we specialise in providing non-surgical treatment for scoliosis (as well as for other spinal conditions such as hyperkyphosis
). Our ScolioGold
treatment courses utilise a variety of therapeutic techniques to achieve great results for scoliosis sufferers, including:
- Reduced Cobb angle
- Relief from pain
- Improved mobility/flexibility
Life can be very difficult for scoliosis sufferers in the Republic of Ireland. Everyone in the country is entitled to free healthcare courtesy of the Health Service Executive (HSE), a body that's roughly equivalent to the NHS here in Britain; however, the Irish healthcare system is notorious for its extremely long waiting lists, which often force patients to wait months or even years for all kinds of different treatments, up to and including critical operations such as heart surgery. For this reason, many Irish residents choose to pay for private health insurance, but countless others simply have to wait and hope that their illnesses don't get too much worse in the meantime.
This can be disastrous for people with curved spines. Scoliosis is one of those conditions that tends to get worse the longer it goes untreated, and when you're already in a great deal of pain and discomfort to begin with, a long wait for treatment is really the last thing you want. Earlier this year, The Irish Times published an article on the long waiting lists for scoliosis treatment in Ireland; the piece focused on a woman from Galway named Marie Cunningham.
Speaking to the Times, Ms. Cunningham (58) stated that her condition made her feel like a 90-year-old: "walking is really bad as I am so bent over and I have to use crutches to help hold me up...They want me to wait [for treatment], but as far as I am concerned I have gone through enough pain, disability, mental depression in the past 5 years".
There are many people like Marie Cunningham in the Republic of Ireland today: scoliosis sufferers whose conditions have been allowed to progress greatly because effective treatment is not immediately available through the HSE. This, of course, is where we at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic come in, and numerous patients and their families have travelled from their homes in Ireland to our clinic in London because they wanted to get access to specialist care and treatment right away instead of waiting months for the HSE to get around to them.
Scoliosis Treatment for Patients from Ireland >
One such patient was Jack Gaffney, the 18-year-old from County Wicklow whose story we told in our recent blog post about Klippel-Feil syndrome; another was 23-year-old Molly Garvey from Dublin. Watch the video below to find out how we helped her with her scoliosis.
If you live in the Republic of Ireland and you'd like to find out more about our non-surgical scoliosis treatment courses, please contact us to arrange an initial consultation or visit the links below for further information.
Scoliosis Treatment for Patients from Ireland - Useful Links:
Since the vast majority of scoliosis sufferers are diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 15, it's easy to assume that this condition doesn't really affect people either side of that age bracket. Certainly, if you've glanced at our Patient Experiences page, you may be under the impression that everyone we treat is either a teenager or an adult who was diagnosed with scoliosis as a teenager but didn't do anything about it at the time.
But the truth is that scoliosis doesn't always develop within that 5-year window. The condition often makes itself known during adolescence because this is when you go through growth spurts, periods of rapid growth during which the spine becomes more prone to curvature. However, some children do develop scoliosis years prior to hitting puberty (this is known as 'juvenile scoliosis' - see Treating Scoliosis in Young Children
), and many older people who previously had perfectly healthy spines develop scoliosis later in life due to factors such as osteoporosis and the natural ageing and weakening of the human body over time.
So the answer to the question, 'Can you get scoliosis at any age?' is 'Yes - it's most likely to develop during adolescence, but there is ample evidence that the condition can develop earlier or later in life.'
This brings us to question #2...
What treatments are available for scoliosis sufferers?
Scoliosis can be treated in a number of different ways. Spinal fusion surgery is often utilised as a means of correcting the spinal curve, but this is a risky, invasive procedure that many patients would rather avoid. Surgery may be a particularly undesirable course of action if the patient is very young or very old.
Thankfully, there are alternatives. Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we treat scoliosis sufferers using a combination of non-surgical techniques that we collectively refer to as the ScolioGold method - this is an exercise-based regime that helps patients to overcome the symptoms of their spinal curvature and improves their quality of life immeasurably.
Contact us now to arrange an initial consultation at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, or click one of the links below to see the results we've helped patients of different ages to achieve.