Scoliosis Walking

As those with scoliosis may well know, a curvature of the spine doesn't just affect your back - it can also affect other parts of your body. This includes the hips and legs, which can sometimes lead to a change in the way you walk.

Today we will look at how scoliosis affects walking, the causes behind this, and what can be done to rectify it.

How does scoliosis affect walking?

A sideways curvature of the spine can sometimes cause the hips to misalign. This misalignment can cause one leg to appear shorter than the other, affecting the patient's gait. They also may be restricted while they are walking, as scoliosis sometimes causes stiffness and impairs overall mobility.

In severe cases of scoliosis, the knock-on effects of the spinal curvature can disrupt the coordination between the leg muscles. This also stiffens the muscles and makes it difficult to walk with ease. This is usually due to the degeneration of the spine applying excessive pressure on the nerves and spinal cord.

Treating scoliosis-related walking problems

There are a variety of ways to treat scoliosis and resolve any associated walking problems. The best method of treatment usually depends on the severity of the curvature - here's a look at some of the most popular scoliosis treatment methods:

  • Bracing - Bracing is often the first port of call when treating a case of scoliosis, especially if the patient is young and their body is still growing. A rigid brace is used to halt the progression of the curvature while the patient finishes growing. Further treatment may be necessary later on.

  • Specialised physiotherapy - Physical therapy is a popular non-surgical method for treating scoliosis. It combines a mixture of exercises, orthotics, stretches, massages, and - in some cases, including that of our own ScolioGold treatment programme - hydrotherapy. A comprehensive physical therapy programme can help to reduce the curvature of the patient's spine and improve their overall quality of life.

  • Surgery - Surgery is usually the last option given to the patient and is reserved for extreme cases. The operation may involve spinal fusion or magnetic growth rods, depending on the age of the patient (and where in the world they live).

Each of these treatments can help towards fixing a scoliosis patient's walking problems; it is up to you to decide which method is right for you.

Here at Scoliosis SOS, we specialise in the non-surgical approach to scoliosis treatment. Our clinic, based in London, provides intensive physiotherapy courses which aim to improve the curvature of your spine. We have treated patients from all over the world for over a decade, and we are very proud of the results we achieve.

To see the results of our ScolioGold treatment courses, browse our 'Before & After' photo gallery here.

If you're interested in attending a ScolioGold course, please contact us today to book an initial consultation.

Medical professionals use a mind-boggling array of different terms to refer to scoliosis and other curvatures of the spine. On this blog, we frequently aim to put some of this arcane diagnostic jargon into layman's terms – see our posts on levoconvex scoliosis and thoracic hyperkyphosis, for example.

The tricky medical term that we'd like to look at today is thoracogenic scoliosis. At first glance, this phrase may look like it means the same thing as thoracic scoliosis – that is, a sideways curve in the 'thoracic' (upper/middle) region of your backbone.

But don't be tripped up! Thoracogenic scoliosis is a far more specific term than thoracic scoliosis, and they should not be used interchangeably.

So what is thoracogenic scoliosis?

According to the Scoliosis Research Society's Revised Glossary of Terms, thoracogenic scoliosis is a "spinal curvature attributable to disease or operative trauma in or on the thoracic cage".

In simpler terms, thoracogenic scoliosis is what we call a spinal curve that was caused by either surgery or a disease in the thoracic region (that is, the part of the body that's highlighted in the image below).

Thoracic Spine

This raises another question...

What can cause thoracogenic scoliosis?

There are several diseases and operations that can trigger the development of scoliosis. Here are just a couple of examples:

  • Thoracotomy (surgical operation). A thoracotomy involves opening up the patient's chest, usually to access vital organs such as the heart or lungs. Scoliosis very rarely results from a thoracotomy, but it can happen, as in this case where the patient developed scoliosis post-surgery as the result of her rib fusion.

  • Lymphoma (disease). Cancers such as lymphoma may, if they grow large enough, disrupt the spine and push it into a curved / skewed position.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we treat all types of scoliosis in patients of all ages. Click here to learn about our treatment methods, or if you'd like to arrange an initial consultation, please contact us today.

Scoliosis Corset

We've discussed the use of braces to treat scoliosis quite a few times on this blog, but are you aware of just how many different types of scoliosis brace there are? From the Boston brace to the Gensignen brace, there are many options available to scoliosis patients and the medical professionals responsible for treating them.

Today, we're going to look at a type of soft scoliosis brace called a corset brace.

What is a corset brace?

If you've seen the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, you know what a corset is: a tight-fitting undergarment that wraps around the torso, shaping the wearer's figure. Corsets were common from the mid-16th century onwards, although they have long had a reputation for being very uncomfortable and they're not worn very often nowadays.

A medical corset (of the kind that might be used to treat scoliosis) has much in common with a regular corset: it's made of fabric (usually cotton or nylon) and tightened with laces. Some are reinforced with metal bars.

Just as a corset worn for fashion purposes shapes the figure in a certain way, a scoliosis corset shapes the body in order to help correct and/or alleviate the spinal curvature and its symptoms.

How do corsets help with scoliosis?

The scoliosis brace has two functions:

  • Reduce the weight / stress being placed on certain areas of the spine
  • Restrict movement, preventing postures that might harm the spine further

Whereas a rigid scoliosis brace (e.g. a Boston or Milwaukee brace) aims to prevent the wearer's spinal curve from progressing as they grow, a soft corset brace focuses more on alleviating pressure and creating conditions that are conducive to faster healing. For instance, they are sometimes used to help patients recovery from scoliosis surgery.

Alternatives to bracing

While bracing can be useful for limiting the effects of scoliosis, it is generally not the most effective treatment method available - not on its own, at least.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we frequently treat scoliosis patients who wear (or have previously worn) braces to help with their condition. However, our ScolioGold treatment programme has also proven to be an effective alternative to bracing in that it can:

  • Reverse the progression of spinal curvature (see our results page)
  • Reduce pain and stiffness
  • Improve mobility and muscle balance
  • Boost overall quality of life

If you're interested in getting treated at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London, please take a look at our upcoming course dates or get in touch to book an initial consultation.

Further reading:

After being diagnosed with scoliosis aged 14, Louise Laurie wanted to help others in a similar situation. This inspired the creation of her blog, helpformyscoliosis.com, which works to raise scoliosis awareness and inspire those living with it.

Louise kindly agreed to answer a few questions from us at Scoliosis SOS - read on to find out more about the origin of helpformyscoliosis.com and how Louise has achieved many things she thought she would never be able to do after scoliosis surgery. 

Help for My Scoliosis


Firstly, we’d love to hear a little bit about you. When were you diagnosed with scoliosis and what motivated you to start helpformyscoliosis.com?
I was diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis at 14. When I was first diagnosed with scoliosis it was a huge shock. I had never even heard of scoliosis and had never had any medical conditions up to that point. Upon diagnosis, my scoliosis was very advanced and way past the point of needing surgery so at the time I was very upset - I remember thinking my life was over. I decided to start my blog helpformyscoliosis.com following my surgery to raise awareness of scoliosis, but also to inspire others with the condition. I wanted to show that having scoliosis does not mean that your life is over, far from it, and there is so much that you can achieve.

 

How did scoliosis impact your day-to-day life prior to any treatment?
Having scoliosis has had a huge impact on my life. Prior to treatment, I was in a lot of pain, caused mostly by muscle spasms due to the pressure of the curvature. The main impact scoliosis has had on me though is emotional and I think the impact of this, especially on teenage girls, is often overlooked. My scoliosis wasn’t hugely noticeable to the untrained eye, but I used to hate how I looked and hated being different. This had a huge impact on my body confidence and self-esteem growing up and this still affects me to some extent today.


What treatments have you had for your spinal curvature?
Over the years I have had countless treatments including physio, acupuncture, massages. At age 24, I finally decided to have spinal fusion surgery to correct my scoliosis. This was a hugely difficult decision for me and not one to make lightly. My scoliosis was severe though (I had two curvatures of over 80 degrees) and they usually recommend surgery if the curve is over 50 degrees. I was also in a lot of pain and was told that without surgery my scoliosis would progress and get even worse over time.

 

How did you find recovery and are you happy with the results of your treatment?
Recovery was one of the toughest and most painful experiences of my life. It took me years to fully recover as your back affects everything you do. I couldn’t bend, lift or twist for about 6 months and I had to re-learn simple things that you take for granted, like how to walk again, sit up and get out of bed.


We can see you completed a trek across the Great Wall of China last year (congratulations, by the way!). What inspired you to do this and how did you find it?
Thank you! I wanted to do something big not only to challenge myself and prove what I was capable of following my scoliosis surgery, but also to raise awareness of scoliosis and inspire others with the condition. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I met some truly amazing and inspiring people.


Many people facing the prospect of spinal fusion surgery may think they’d never be able to complete something so intense post-surgery. Could you shed a little light on how you managed to get back into exercise?
I believe you can achieve anything you put your mind to. It has taken me years following surgery to build up to the level I’m at now fitness wise. It’s definitely a slow process which can be frustrating but it’s important not to rush these things and to listen to your body. I used to go to the gym regularly before surgery and I do think that being fit helped in my recovery immensely.

I think that regular exercise is crucial if you have scoliosis, it’s important to keep the core and back muscles strong. I went back to the gym about 9 months following my surgery but all I could do at the time was walk very slowly on the treadmill. Now, I regularly run 10K races under an hour, lift weights and am completing a half marathon in May.

 

Do you have any similar goals for 2018?
I would love to climb Machu Picchu so watch this space! Other goals I have are to complete a half marathon and I’ve just signed up to a Tough Mudder, which is a muddy obstacle race. I just love to push myself and always have to have something in the pipeline to keep me motivated.

 

Finally, what advice would you give someone suffering from scoliosis at the moment?
Every case is different but I would say, mindset is everything. I used to feel so down about my back but I’ve realised that having scoliosis does not have to hold you back, you can achieve anything you put your mind to.

Be sure to follow Louise on Twitter or subscribe to her blog for regular updates.

Further reading:

Nobody has a perfectly straight backbone. It is normal to have slight sagittal spinal curvature that forms a sort of gentle 'S' shape, as shown here:

Normal curvature of the spine

A 'normal' spine as viewed from the side, front and back

In this blog post, we will look at what constitutes a 'normal' curvature of the spine and what is classed as an abnormal / excessive curvature. 

Normal Curvature of the Spine

A normal curvature of the spine appears in the neck and lower back areas of the spine. When viewed from the side, these soft curves bend forward at the neck (cervical) section and outwards in the lower half (lumbar) of the spine. These normal curvatures of the spine help to distribute bodily stress more evenly during rest and movement.

These curves balance each other out, so your head should be aligned with your hips when standing up straight. This position works to minimise the effect of gravity and allows you to have good posture when moving around.

A healthy spine with a normal curvature should still be centred on the pelvis, and more or less straight when viewed from behind. While most people have a slight sideways curve, the spine should not curve more than 10 degrees to the left or right. 

Abnormal Curvatures of the Spine

An abnormal curvature of the spine can take a number of different forms, including:

  • Scoliosis - Scoliosis is an excessive curvature of the spine to the left or right (or both). Common symptoms of scoliosis include uneven shoulder blades, hips and rib humps.

  • Hyperlordosis - Hyperlordosis is an excessive forward curvature of the lower spine, making it appear that the patient's stomach and rear are sticking out.

  • Hyperkyphosis - Hyperkyphosis is an excessive forward curvature of the upper spine, often resulting in a 'hunchback' appearance.

If you think you may be experiencing any of these disorders, it is important to go and see a GP before the curvature progresses any further. Unfortunately, in most cases, the condition will not improve by itself and will require treatment.

Flat Back Syndrome

It is also possible to have an abnormally small sagittal curvature of the spine. Flat back syndrome refers to a straightening of the spinal cord, usually in the thoracic (upper) part of the spine, resulting in an overall imbalance.

The surgical methods used to treat scoliosis from the 1960s to the 1980s are often cited as the cause of this problem, but modern techniques mean that flat back syndrome is far less common nowadays. Other causes of flat back syndrome include degenerative disc disease, vertebral compression fractures, ankylosing spondylitis and post-laminectomy syndrome.

If you think you may have a spinal abnormality, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic is dedicated to treating these conditions through exercise-based physical therapy. Click here to find out more about our treatment method, or contact us now to arrange an initial consultation.

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