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.

Sciatica is a fairly broad medical term that usually refers to a painful or tingling sensation in and around the legs. Up to 43% of the population will experience sciatica at some point in their lives, although this depends on how strictly you define the condition.

What does sciatica feel like?

Different people experience different sensations when suffering from sciatica. Some experience stabbing or shooting pains, while others describe the feeling as numb and tingly, not unlike pins and needles.

These sensations may occur in any of the following body parts:

  • Legs (especially the backs of the legs)
  • Feet
  • Buttocks
  • Back

Sciatica usually affects just one side of the body, but it has been known to cause pain / numbness in both sides.

What causes sciatica?

Sciatica

Sciatica arises when the sciatic nerve, which runs from the hip down through the leg, is irritated. This can occur for a wide variety of reasons, including (but not limited to):

  • A herniated spinal disc ('slipped disc')
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Pregnancy
  • Trauma (e.g. from a car crash or sporting accident)

Can scoliosis cause sciatica?

Yes, it can. While sciatica isn't one of the more common symptoms of scoliosis, the two conditions can occur simultaneously, and in some cases, the patient's spinal curve may indeed be the underlying cause of their sciatica.

There are a number of ways in which a curved spine may lead to sciatica (or symptoms that are virtually indistinguishable from sciatica). The most common causes are:

  • Pinched nerve – When the spine curves and twists out of its normal position, it may press up against the sciatic nerve, resulting in pain or a loss of feeling.

  • Putting more weight on one leg than the other – An individual with a twisted spine may end up walking differently, shifting more weight onto one leg to compensate for the change in their posture. While this in itself won't result in sciatica, the overburdened leg may begin to feel painful after a while, and this pain may be mistaken for sciatica.

In other cases, the patient's scoliosis and their sciatica may both be caused by the same underlying condition. As mentioned above, spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis are known to cause sciatica, and both conditions can result in a curvature of the spine as well. To read about how stenosis and spondylolisthesis are linked to scoliosis, click on the corresponding links above.

If you're experiencing pain or discomfort as a result of scoliosis, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic can help. Our ScoliGold treatment method has proven extremely effective in the treatment of patients with curved spines – get in touch now to arrange a consultation.

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