Is there a link between arthritis and scoliosis?
Before we answer that question, let's first make sure we understand what those two conditions are:
- Scoliosis is a condition where the spine curves or twists sideways to create a 'C' or 'S' shape. Common symptoms include back pain and reduced flexibility, but every case is different.
- Arthritis is a condition characterised by inflammation and pain in one's joints. The most commonly-affected joints are the hands, knees, hips and spine.
So how are these two conditions linked, if at all? Research suggests that if a patient suffers from degenerative arthritis in the spine (a type of arthritis that is somewhat common in older patients), a scoliosis curve will often develop too. We refer to this kind of scoliosis as degenerative scoliosis.
Some of the symptoms that an older patient might experience if they suffer from degenerative scoliosis are:
- Pain in the legs caused by the pinching of nerves
- Lower back pain
That being said, symptoms may be quite severe in one degenerative scoliosis patient and very mild in the next - again, every case of scoliosis is different!
For elderly patients who suffer from the above-mentioned symptoms, there are some treatments that can help to relieve the pain and improve mobility in the affected area of the body. Like most back pain, improving the patient's strength and range of motion can have huge benefits, not only strengthening the back but making it more flexible and reducing pain.
If you're suffering from degenerative scoliosis, an exercise-based programme like our own ScolioGold method may be extremely beneficial for you.
When you come to the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, our specialist scoliosis therapists will work with you to compose an exercise routine that will gradually build your strength, improve your mobility and reduce your pain. Once you have learnt the different exercises and stretches, you will be much better equipped to manage your condition independently.
If your degenerative scoliosis becomes incredibly severe, your doctor might recommend that you have surgery to help correct the problem. Surgery might be suggested if:
- You're experiencing intense pain
- Your nerves are at risk
Degenerative scoliosis does not commonly become severe enough to necessitate surgery, but it's not unheard of.
If you'd like to find out more about the Scoliosis SOS Clinic and how we can help with your condition, please contact us today to arrange a consultation.
Last night (10 April 2019), 18-year-old Chloe Donhou from Essex underwent spinal fusion surgery to correct her 60+ degree scoliosis. This wouldn't normally be headline news - scoliosis affects approximately 3% of the population, and countless spinal fusion procedures are carried out worldwide each year - but Chloe's operation was noteworthy because it was televised.
Channel 5's Operation Live is a groundbreaking television series that's exactly what its title suggests: live TV broadcasts of surgical operations, interspersed with commentary from the medical professionals involved. At the centre of last night's instalment was Chloe, who has spent much of the last 18 years in pain as a result of her spinal curvature.
Speaking to the Express ahead of her operation, Chloe said: "This is something I've been waiting for my whole life. It's finally happened. It's the little things people don't understand...if I go bowling with friends, I'll be in agony the next day."
Chloe's spinal fusion procedure was carried out by the orthopaedic team at The Royal London Hospital, and watched by viewers all over the UK.
Read some of the reactions to Chloe's spinal fusion surgery on Twitter >
Is spinal fusion surgery the only answer for people with scoliosis?
Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we provide exercise-based physical therapy that helps people with scoliosis to live better lives. We quite frequently hear from individuals who are looking for alternatives to spinal fusion surgery - as effective as the operation is, there's always a risk associated with any surgical procedure, and many scoliosis patients prefer not to go through with it.
Over the last 12-13 years, we have helped many people with scoliosis to improve their condition and avoid spinal fusion surgery. Our internationally-renowned ScolioGold treatment method has proven capable of:
- Reducing pain
- Making spinal curves smaller
- Improving muscle balance and flexibility
- Boosting overall quality of life
If you would like to find out more about the Scoliosis SOS Clinic and the treatment we provide, please telephone 0207 488 4428 or fill out our online enquiry form.
Before & After X-Rays > Book a Consultation >
Some time ago, we shared a series of stretches for scoliosis sufferers to perform in order to improve strength and balance while also relieving some of the aches and pains that a spinal curvature can cause.
While performing a few exercises at home is no substitute for attending a full ScolioGold treatment course here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we know that these stretches can be very beneficial in their own right, and so we'd like to share a few more suggestions today. As before, please note that performing these stretches does not mean you shouldn't also seek professional treatment for your scoliosis. They are designed to complement, not replace, other treatment methods.
- Find a flat wall that you can stand against. (You can also use the floor if there's no available wall space.)
- Stand with your back to the wall and your feet slightly in front of you.
- Press your head/shoulders back so they're firmly against the wall.
- Push your lower back towards the wall. Try to touch the wall if you can (but don't strain too hard).
- Hold this position while you take three deep breaths in and out.
- Relax and repeat five times.
Watch a Video of This Stretch >
- Stand in a doorway.
- Place one arm on the doorframe so that it's pointing upwards (your elbow should be bent to a 90° angle, and your upper arm should be roughly in line with your shoulder).
- Step forward with one leg (on the same side as your raised arm).
- Keeping your arm pressed against the doorframe and lean forward slightly. You should feel the stretch in your pectoral (chest) area.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, then relax and repeat two more times.
- Finally, turn around and repeat steps 1-5 with the other side of your body.
Watch a Video of This Stretch >
- Sit in a sturdy chair in front of a desk.
- Place your feet flat on the floor so that your knees are bent to a 90° angle.
- Place your arms under your desk with your palms down (so that the backs of your hands are touching the underside of the desk).
- Gently push upwards with your hands and forearms so that they're pressed against the underside of the desk.
- At the same time, stretch your upper back and allow your pelvis to rock forward slightly.
- Tuck in your chin so that you feel the stretch in your neck as well as your upper back.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, then repeat twice.
Click here for more scoliosis exercises, or contact Scoliosis SOS today to arrange a consultation with Scoliosis SOS.
Previously on the Scoliosis SOS blog, we have talked about some of the exercises that scoliosis sufferers can perform at home in order to combat their condition. But while these exercises work well on a sideways spinal curve, they may not be so effective if you suffer from hyperkyphosis - a forward curve of the upper (thoracic) spine.
We at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic treat each patient using a combination of non-surgical spinal techniques to ensure that all aspects of their condition are fully treated, without the use of a brace or spinal fusion surgery. To help you overcome your hyperkyphosis, we're going to run through a few exercises you can do at home that will help relieve some of your symptoms.
Please note that these stretches should not be used as a substitute for a full treatment course delivered by a chartered physiotherapist.
- Lie on your stomach and extend your hands in front of your head.
- Keeping your head in a neutral position, look towards the floor, and lift your legs and arms up towards the ceiling.
- Reach away from your body with your hands and feet.
- Hold this position for 3 seconds, and repeat 10 times.
Happy Cat, Sad Cat Stretch
The goal of this stretch is to increase the mobility of your spine.
- On all fours, place your knees hip-width apart, with your hands under your shoulders. Keep your spine in a neutral position.
- Round your back, tuck your bottom under, and drop your head between your arms.
- Holding this position, inhale and try to curve your back even further to increase the stretch.
- Then, during exhalation, arch your back, stick your bottom out, and look up towards the ceiling.
- Repeat this cycle 10 times, using your breathing to help you slowly transition between the two positions.
Head Retraction Stretch
The goal of this exercise is to stretch and exercise weakened neck muscles.
- Lie down on the floor, and pull your chin in as if you were trying to make a double chin.
- Hold this for 15 seconds, and repeat five to ten times.
Chin Retraction Stretch
This exercise stretches your deep neck extensors.
- Stand up as straight as you can - you can do this against a wall if it helps.
- Tuck your chin slightly, and bring your head back directly over your shoulders.
- Bring own, and hold this position for 30 seconds - take a break if you begin to feel pain.
If you suffer from hyperkyphosis, please do not be afraid to contact us - we'd be overjoyed to help you overcome your condition with our non-surgical treatment regime.
Disclaimer: The above information should not be treated as medical advice and the scoliosis exercises described may not be suitable or beneficial for everyone. You should not begin any exercise routine without consulting a qualified health practitioner, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, elderly, or if you have any chronic or recurring conditions. Any application of scoliosis exercises suggested is at the reader's sole discretion and risk. Scoliosis SOS accepts no responsibility or liability for any loss or injuries caused directly or indirectly through the performing of any exercises described. If you feel any discomfort or pain during exercise, stop immediately. Always consult your own GP if you are in any way concerned about your health or anything associated with it.
Scoliosis is defined as any sideways spinal curvature that measures 10 degrees or more (see Cobb angle). That being said, any curve measuring less than around 25 degrees is considered quite mild and generally less likely to require immediate medical attention. For context, spinal fusion surgery is usually recommended only in cases where the curve measures at least 40-50 degrees.
However, that doesn't necessarily mean that 15 degree scoliosis doesn't need to be treated at all. For one thing, some symptoms of scoliosis can occur no matter how slight your spinal curvature may be. Many people with so-called 'mild' scoliosis still experience:
- Back pain
- Noticeably reduced mobility/flexibility
If these symptoms persist, it may be necessary to treat them in order to minimise their impact on the patient's day-to-day life. Pain medication can help, and physical therapy can improve flexibility/mobility while also combating the source of any pain or stiffness.
15 degree scoliosis won't necessarily stay that way!
Another thing to consider is that scoliosis often progresses (i.e. gets worse) as time goes by. A 15-degree curve may gradually grow into a 20-degree curve, then 25, and so on until eventually the patient has to go in for surgery.
For this reason, preventative treatments are sometimes required in order to stop that progression from happening. Young scoliosis patients often wear a back brace until the body has finished growing to stop the condition progressing. And while surgery is not recommended in milder cases of scoliosis, treatments like our own ScolioGold programme can reduce the Cobb angle, sometimes past the 10-degree threshold to the point where the patient's condition is no longer classified as scoliosis at all. Click here for examples of this.
Would you like to find out more about our non-surgical scoliosis treatment courses? Contact Scoliosis SOS now to arrange an initial consultation.