Rachel Mulvaney is the Vice President of Curvy Girls, an international support group for girls with scoliosis. You might remember that we interviewed the group's founder, Leah Stoltz, on the Scoliosis SOS blog last year - this time around, we have a Q&A with Rachel, whose scoliosis story is rather different from Leah's but no less inspirational.

Curvy Girls Scoliosis

So, Rachel - when did you first learn that you had scoliosis?

I was nine years old when my school nurse detected my curves during a scoliosis screening examination. With a 35-degree curve, bracing was immediately recommended - I wore a brace 16 hours a day for nearly 3 years. However, several months after I'd been discharged from bracing, my back pain worsened and we learned that my curve had progressed to 42 degrees.

It was during this time that my mother was doing research for the book that we were writing, Straight Talk with the Curvy Girls. We learned about a scoliosis-specific exercise called the Schroth method, and in 2010, I travelled to a scoliosis clinic in Wisconsin for an intensive two-week programme.

And how well did the treatment work?

I believe it worked very well for me. The back brace did stabilise my curves, but my scoliosis continued to progress as I was never educated on how to hold my body in an upright position without depending on my brace. It was the Schroth method that improved my scoliosis and eliminated my chronic back pain. Those scoliosis-specific exercises taught me how to strengthen my weakened muscles, maintain correction, and most importantly, live a pain-free life.

After eight months of consistently doing the exercises, my 42-degree curve reduced to 30 degrees. This was a surprise to my orthopaedic surgeon, as I was already skeletally matured. And my success did not end there - by the summer of 2013, my curved had reduced to 22 degrees.

How did you get involved with Curvy Girls?

I became involved with Curvy Girls before we even had a formal name! Twelve years ago, my physical therapist introduced me to Leah Stoltz, who told me that she wanted to start a scoliosis support group for people our age. When she asked if I would be interested in attending a meeting, I said yes without any hesitation. Several weeks later, I went to the first meeting at her home on 6th August 2006.

Tell us about the role you play in Curvy Girls today.

Today, I am proud to say that I am the Vice President of Curvy Girls. Since 2012, I have co-led and co-created our International Biennial Curvy Girls Scoliosis Conventions with Leah. I also serve as a mentor for our Curvy Girl Leaders in the New York and New England regions.

I also make myself available to educate and advocate for the Schroth method. Over the years, I have invited medical professionals (as well as newly-diagnosed families) into my home to demonstrate how effective these exercises can be for a scoliotic spine.

And what do you do in your life outside of Curvy Girls?

Outside of Curvy Girls, I work as a Care Coordinator II at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where I facilitate and manage an oncologists' clinic and help run our chemotherapy unit. I am also preparing to go back to college to receive my master's in Public Health. I have a strong interest in research, epidemiology and preventative care.

Has helping other people with their spinal curves helped you to come to terms with your own condition and experiences?

Absolutely - helping other girls was like a form of medicine to me. Educating families about the Schroth method helped me to discover a purpose and drive within me that I never knew existed.

Throughout my bracing years, I was told that my chronic back pain did not exist because scoliosis 'does not cause any pain'. I was one of many patients who were spoken to in this way. But after learning a programme that both validated and eliminated my pain, I was determined to spread the word. I wanted to make sure all Curvy Girl families had the opportunity to know that this treatment existed. How can we make the best decisions for our health if we don't know what all of our options are?

What advice would you give to a young girl who's just been diagnosed with scoliosis?

I would encourage that young girl to join a Curvy Girls chapter so she can see for herself that she is not alone. I would tell her about our conventions and how many girls she will meet from all around the world who are going through the same experiences she is.

And what advice would you give to the people close to them?

For family members, I would advise them to read Straight Talk with the Curvy Girls. This book includes health education, emotional support, and a dedicated section for parents.

For teachers, please show empathy and understanding of the needs she may have. Allow her to step away from her desk if she begins to feel back pain, as sitting for too long in a back brace can lead to discomfort. Excuse her from class if she needs to temporarily leave and take her brace off.

For friends, please be kind and accepting. This is a sensitive time for your friend. Offer to take her shopping to find clothes that will make her feel more confident when she wears her brace to school. You could even suggest helping her name her brace in order to make the brace a part of the friendship you all share.

Visit www.curvygirlsscoliosis.com to learn more about Curvy Girls, or follow @CurvyGirlsScoli on Twitter.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we treat scoliosis using a Schroth-based programme called ScolioGold therapy - learn all about it here.

Scoliosis treatment options

Scoliosis can affect anyone at any age, and the effect it has on the patient's day to day life varies greatly from one case to the next. As a result, there isn't a one-size-fits-all treatment option for scoliosis - we at Scoliosis SOS take each individual's circumstances into account in order to create a tailor-made treatment that is designed to help their specific needs. The treatment options we recommend have the unique idiosyncrasies of your condition in mind at all times.

The right form of scoliosis treatment for you will often depend on how severe your curve is; for instance, many medical professionals will recommend surgery if your curve is beyond a certain angle. However, surgery is far from the only available option - here is a broad overview of some of the scoliosis treatment options that are currently available to individuals with curved spines:

Scoliosis surgery

Surgery

Surgical intervention is often recommended in very severe cases of scoliosis. Spinal fusion surgery treats the condition by anchoring tiny rods, hooks and screws to the spine itself. By applying a bone graft that eventually fuses with the spine, surgery aims to prevent your spine from curving any further. To learn what it's like to undergo spinal fusion surgery, read our blog post on the subject here.

Bracing

Bracing

If the patient is still growing (i.e. a child or teenager), they may have to wear a brace to prevent their spinal curve progressing while their body finishes growing. Bracing doesn't reverse spinal curvature, but it can be an effective way to prevent scoliosis from getting worse.

Scoliogold

Physical Therapy

Many patients would rather avoid surgery if possible because of the risks associated with the spinal fusion procedure. This is why we created the ScolioGold therapy programmme: to help patients seeking a less invasive treatment that actually works. ScolioGold therapy combines various non-surgical methods that have been proven to help improve the effects of the condition. Here are just a few of the techniques we use to provide scoliosis sufferers with a real alternative to scoliosis surgery:

When a combination of these treatments are tailored to your specific circumstances, it can drastically reduce your Cobb angle.

If you are looking for non-surgical scoliosis treatment options, we would be happy to discuss your condition with you. Contact us today to book an initial consultation.

A curvature of the spine (such as scoliosis or hyperkyphosis) can affect anyone, regardless of their age, sex or general fitness. The effect that these conditions have on the patient's day-to-day life can vary massively between one case and the next, so there isn't one single treatment that's universally effective.

The best form of treatment for any given patient depends on how severe their spinal curve is, along with some other variables. If the angle of the curve progresses past the threshold of 40-50 degrees, surgery is often recommended; however, this certainly isn't the only method used to treat scoliosis and other curvatures of the spine.

Here is an overview of the main treatment options that are available for individuals with curved spines:

 

Bracing

If the patient is a child or teenager, a brace may be used to prevent the spinal curvature from progressing as the body grows. Braces commonly have to be worn for 23 hours a day, and can only be taken off to bathe/shower. The brace is worn until the patient has finished growing. Bracing does not treat the spinal curve as such; it is simply used to prevent the patient's condition from getting any worse. 

Back braces are usually made from rigid plastic, so they aren't very flexible (although some more comfortable designs have been introduced in recent years).

Further reading: What's it like wearing a brace?

 

Surgery

If the patient's spinal curve is severe enough, spinal fusion surgery is often recommended. This procedure is performed under general anaesthetic, and it involves anchoring a series of rods to the patient's spine using tiny hooks and screws. These rods reduce the angle of patient's spinal curve as well as serving as a splint to keep it in place. A bone graft is then applied to the spine and eventually fuses to it, preventing the spinal curve from progressing any further. The rods are only a temporary measure, holding the spine together until the fusion process has finished; however, these rods are not usually removed, as to do so would require another large, potentially risky surgical procedure. 

Spinal fusion surgery is usually followed by a lengthy recovery period, during which some pain, discomfort and a loss of mobility are to be expected.

Further reading: What to expect from surgery

 

Physical Therapy

Many people look to physical therapy as an alternative to spinal fusion surgery, and there is increasing evidence that exercise-based programmes can be very effective for treating curvatures of the spine. Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we use our own ScolioGold therapy programme to help patients who are seeking an effective, low-risk treatment method for their spinal condition. 

The ScolioGold method is a combination of non-surgical spinal techniques from around the world, specifically chosen to ensure that all aspects of each patient's condition are properly addressed. By using our own unique combination of methods, we're able to offer an unrivalled treatment success that is not available anywhere else.

To book an initial consultation, or to find out more about our treatment methods, please get in touch with the Scoliosis SOS Clinic today!

More Information: Curvatures of the Spine >

Spine Straightening Exercises

The effects of scoliosis can be very detrimental to one's life. While some patients suffer only minor discomfort, others suffer from chronic pain. The curve of the spine is often the cause of this discomfort, leading to problems with the neck, shoulders, hips, and the back itself.

In order to combat this pain and discomfort, our own ScolioGold treatment method includes a wide variety of spine-straightening exercises. ScolioGold therapy has repeatedly proven capable of reducing the curve in the spine - see our results here.

If you do not want to undergo surgery for whatever reason, there are many exercises we can teach you to help with the effects of scoliosis. Here are some spine-straightening exercises that you can try at home:

Standing against the wall to straighten spine

Standing against a wall

The simple exercise can actually help improve your posture and build strength! All you need is a flat wall to stand against - here's what to do once you've found one:

  1. Stand with your head and shoulders pressed firmly against the wall behind you and place your feet approximately 20cm in front of you.
  2. Push your lower back towards the wall and hold this position for a few seconds.
  3. Take a few deep breaths and then breathe out as you relax. Repeat.

 

Planking exercise

Planking

Planking is a helpful spine-straightening exercise as it strengthens your core muscles whilst also targeting your lower back to help improve posture. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Lie on the floor on your front (use a mat to avoid slipping, as shown in the photo above).
  2. Hold yourself up using your forearms and toes and raise your whole body off the floor.
  3. Keeping your legs straight and your hips raised, place your shoulders directly above your elbows to create a straight line from head to toe.
  4. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then relax and repeat again several times.

 

Bird Dog Stretch

'Bird dog' stretches (leg/arm extensions)

This is another strengthening exercise. It is often performed with a gym ball (as shown in the photo above), but you can still do this exercise if you don't have one handy.

  1. Firstly, lie face-down on the ball and gradually extend your right arm whilst using your left arm to support you (same technique without the ball).
  2. While holding this position, gradually extend your left leg up behind you as shown below.

Spine straightening exercise on gym ball

3. Hold for a couple of seconds, then alternate to the opposite limbs. Repeat this alternating movement back and forth between right and left.

Interested in completing a full treatment course at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic? To book your consultation or request more information, please contact us today.

S-Curve vs C-Curve Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a condition where the spine rotates and curves to an abnormal degree. A spine afflicted by scoliosis usually looks like a letter 'C' (or a reverse letter 'C' depending on the direction of the curve), but some patients have two curves, resulting in an S-shaped spine.

Treatment methods sometimes differ slightly for S curves versus C curves.

What is C-Curve Scoliosis?

C-curve scoliosis is when the curvature bends in one direction, resulting in a C-shaped spinal curve. This type of scoliosis can manifest itself in a number of different ways:

  • Lumbar Curve
    This type of curvature occurs in the lower (lumbar) back.

  • Thoracolumbar Curve
    This type of C curve begins in the upper back and ends in the lower back.

  • Thoracic Curve
    This type of C-curve scoliosis bend occurs in the upper (thoracic) back.

Treating C-Curve Scoliosis

C-curve scoliosis, where the spine bends in just one direction, is more common than S-curve scoliosis. C-curve scoliosis can be treated through a variety of different methods, including:

  • Bracing
    Bracing is a commonly-used scoliosis treatment method in young patients who are still growing. This method can halt the progression of the curvature and stabilise it until further action can be taken once the patient reaches adulthood. Soft and hard braces can be used to treat C-curve scoliosis.

  • Physiotherapy
    Physiotherapy is a popular C-curve scoliosis treatment method, especially when offered as an alternative to surgery (see below). Using exercise-based techniques like the Schroth method, physical therapists can help to reduce spinal curvature while boosting the patient's overall quality of life.

  • Surgery
    Spinal fusion surgery is often used to address severe curvatures. If the curvature is so severe that it risks causing respiratory and cardiovascular issues, surgery may be suggested by a medical professional.

What is S-Curve Scoliosis?

S-curve scoliosis is when the spine contains two curves, one in the upper and one in the lower back. When these curves go in opposite directions, they make the spine look similar to a letter 'S'. This type of scoliosis is less common than C-curve scoliosis, but it isn't necessarily accompanied by more severe symptoms.

An S curve is also known as a double major curve as it involves both a thoracic (upper back) curve and a lumbar (lower back) curve. As the curves tend to balance one another out at times, this type of scoliosis can often be harder to spot at first.

Treating S-Curve Scoliosis

As with C-curve scoliosis, S-curve scoliosis can be treated in a variety of ways:

  • Bracing
    Bracing can also be used for S-curve scoliosis to help halt the progression of the curvature. However, different types of braces may be needed to treat a severe S-shaped curve. A specialist brace such as the Gensingen brace may be needed, as these are individually made for each patient.

  • Surgery

    In the most severe cases, surgery may be recommended to help halt and rectify the spinal curvature(s). However, this is typically only recommended when the patient's scoliosis is threatening to cause other health issues.

  • Physiotherapy
    Physiotherapy can also be used to treat S-curve scoliosis through a variety of exercises, stretches, and massages. This method is preferred amongst many patients, especially those suffering from a mild to moderate spinal curvature. Physiotherapy is a great method for improving the patient's curvature(s) without the need for an operation and long recovery times. 

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we have been treating patients with C- and S-curve scoliosis for over 12 years. Our 4-week long ScolioGold course provides a tailored treatment regime to help improve the degree of your curvature. Through a series of exercises, stretches and massages, we are able to help improve the degree of C- and S-shaped scoliosis and improve your quality of life. Click here to see the fantastic results we're capable of achieving.

To book an initial consultation with Scoliosis SOS, please get in touch today.

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