Are scoliosis and arthritis connected?

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!

Treatment Options

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.

Exercise-Based Therapy

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.

Surgery

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.

Hypermobility

If a person has scoliosis, this condition can manifest itself in a multitude of different ways. Aside from the most obvious symptom - a visibly curved spine - patients may experience any number of other effects, from back pain and stiffness to muscular imbalance, constipation, and even compromised breathing.

Another condition that seems to be quite common among people with curved spines is hypermobility. Today, we'd like to take a closer look at the relationship between hypermobility and scoliosis, but first...

What is hypermobility?

If you have hypermobility, it means that some of your joints are unusually flexible or have a greater range of movement than normal. Hypermobility is also known as hyperlaxity, and people with hypermobile joints are sometimes said to be 'double-jointed'.

Common signs of hypermobility include:

  • The ability to bend one's elbows and/or knees backwards
  • The ability to bend one's little finger back beyond 90 degrees
  • The ability to bend one's thumb backwards to the point where it touches the arm
  • The ability to place one's palms flat on the floor without bending one's knees

Hypermobility is not necessarily a health problem in and of itself, but it is associated with a number of undesirable symptoms. For instance, individuals with hypermobile joints often also experience:

  • Aches and pains in joints/muscles
  • Joint dislocations
  • Fatigue
  • Recurrent sprains

When hypermobility is accompanied by symptoms like these, we call it JHS (Joint Hypermobility Syndrome).

What causes hypermobility?

In many cases, hypermobility occurs independently of any other conditions. In other words, hypermobility isn't always the result of an underlying health issue - some people are just double-jointed with no clear cause.

That being said, hypermobility does sometimes form part of a larger set of symptoms. In particular, hypermobile joints can commonly be found in people with the following conditions:

  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) - A condition that's characterised by stretchy skin that cuts and bruises easily.

  • Marfan syndrome - A genetic condition of the body's connective tissues, resulting in long limbs, flexible joints, and heart problems in some cases.

Both of the above syndromes are also closely associated with curvatures of the spine.

How are hypermobility and scoliosis connected?

Because conditions like Ehlers-Danlos and Marfan syndrome often lead to both hypermobility and scoliosis, it is perhaps unsurprising that many people with curved spines also have hypermobile joints.

Yet the correlation between hypermobility and scoliosis does not appear to be limited to Marfan syndrome / EDS patients. A 2011 study of children with idiopathic scoliosis (i.e. a sideways spinal curvature with no clear underlying cause) showed that joint hypermobility was significantly more common amongst idiopathic scoliosis sufferers than amongst other children. (If you're interested, you can find the full study here.)

So it seems that if you have scoliosis - regardless of whether your condition is idiopathic or the result of a condition like EDS - you are more likely than average to have hypermobile joints as well.

Treating scoliosis patients with hypermobile joints

Because hypermobile joints have a greater motion range than usual, they are also more susceptible to injury. It is very important for physical therapists to bear this in mind when treating people with hypermobility, as some of the exercises and techniques commonly included in physiotherapy regimes are potentially harmful for patients with overly mobile joints.

Given the high incidence of hypermobility amongst scoliosis patients, our ScolioGold therapists are trained to always be mindful of the risk of over-extension.

Click here to learn more about our exercise-based treatment courses, or contact Scoliosis SOS today if you suffer from curvature of the spine and wish to arrange a consultation.

Scoliosis explained

If you've recently been diagnosed with scoliosis and your spinal curvature is - for the moment - still relatively small, you may be wondering how your condition will affect you as it progresses (i.e. as the curve becomes more pronounced).

As your Cobb angle increases, the curve in your spine may impact your day-to-day life in a variety of different ways. However, please bear in mind that no two cases of scoliosis are completely identical, and some symptoms that appear prominently in one patient may not appear at all in the next! There is no guarantee that you will experience all of the below effects if your spinal curve continues to grow; the aim of this list is to give newly-diagnosed scoliotics a general idea of what to expect as the condition progresses.

How will scoliosis affect my appearance?

Scoliosis examples

The visual symptoms of scoliosis include:
  • Visibly curved back
  • Leaning to one side
  • Shoulders sitting at different heights
  • Uneven hips/waist/legs
  • One shoulder blade / one side of the rib cage protruding more prominently than the other
The visibility of these symptoms varies hugely from one patient to the next, although a greater curve will generally result in more immediately visible prominences and unevenness.

What will scoliosis feel like as it progresses?

As your curve grows, you may experience any or all of the following physical symptoms (again, severity varies massively from one case to the next):
  • Back pain
  • Pain in other parts of the body (e.g. legs, neck)
  • Reduced flexibility
  • Muscular imbalance (i.e. a weakening of the muscles on one side of the body)
  • Compromised breathing

How will scoliosis affect my everyday life?

Mild cases of scoliosis usually don't have a significant impact on the patient's mobility - it is reasonably rare for scoliosis to become so advanced that it qualifies as a disability. However, while you should be able to get around without too much difficulty, your spinal curvature may cause problems if you participate in sports (or other physically demanding pursuits) on a regular basis. As noted above, scoliosis can limit flexibility/range of movement and create a noticeable muscular imbalance, and these symptoms can be hugely detrimental to one's performance in certain sports.

If you experience pain as a result of your spinal curve, you may need to start taking pain relief medication as it grows larger. The type and strength of the painkillers you take will depend on the degree of pain you are feeling - be sure to consult your GP if necessary, as they will be able to prescribe certain medications that are not available over the counter. Chronic pain can have a significant impact on a person's overall quality of life, making it harder to work, socialise and relax, but taking pain relief medication can help to minimise that impact (although most painkillers come with risks and side-effects of their own).

Most of the above symptoms/effects of scoliosis can be halted, minimised, or even eliminated completely through proper treatment. Treatment options include bracing, surgery, and physical therapy programmes such as the ScolioGold treatment courses we provide here at Scoliosis SOS - click here to find out more.
Hyperlordosis
 
The most important thing to keep in mind when seeking information on your curved spine is the fact that no two curves are the same. In fact, even perfectly healthy spines have some level of curvature, although this slight curve does not pose a problem unless it grows to be abnormally severe. Curvatures can occur in different parts of the spine and develop into a variety of shapes depending on the direction and location of the irregularity.
 
Previously on the Scoliosis SOS blog, we discussed the characteristics of hyperkyphosis, a spinal condition which causes the upper region of the spine to curve forwards, creating a hunched appearance. Hyperlordosis, on the other hand, occurs in the lower (lumbar) spine, causing the patient to have an excessively arched posture in the lower part of the back.
 
To explain in more detail, here's a closer look at the causes and symptoms of hyperlordosis.
 

What causes hyperlordosis?

The first thing to note about hyperlordosis is that it can impact people of all genders and ages - although it is rare in children. The condition is frequently caused by bad posture, along with a number of other contributing factors and conditions, including:
  • Obesity
  • Spinal injury
  • Sitting or standing for extended periods of time
  • Uneven muscles, particularly a weak core
  • Injuries and trauma gained while dancing

 

What does hyperlodosis look like?

Hyperlordosis causes the inward curve in the lower back to become exaggerated, causing the stomach and bottom to appear pushed out, and the inward curve to resemble the letter 'C' when viewed from the side. To find out how this differs from the appearance of scoliosis and hyperkyphosis, read our guide to different curvatures of the spine here.
 

Can hyperlordosis be treated?

In the majority of cases, hyperlordosis is not a sign of a more severe condition, meaning that it can be treated and managed with physical therapy and exercises designed to strengthen the back, correct the curve, and improve overall posture. Here at Scoliosis SOS, we are able to provide tailored treatment programmes that are specifically designed with the individual needs of our patients in mind, allowing us to provide the best possible treatment. 
 
If you have recently been diagnosed with hyperlordosis and you would like to find out more about our non-invasive treatment methods, please feel free to contact the Scoliosis SOS team today.
Scoliosis sufferer in the British army

If it is your ambition to join the British Army, you may be concerned about whether your curved spine will scupper your chances of achieving this goal. Today, we'd like to put your fears to rest.

Army Entry Requirements

The British Army's entry requirements state that all would-be soldiers looking to join a UOTC (University Officers' Training Corps) must satisfy the Army's medical requirements. Certain conditions - such as deafness, blindness, and the absence of one or more limbs - are deemed 'immediate barriers', meaning that anyone with these conditions is automatically disqualified from entry into a UOTC. The rules are more flexible for other conditions; for example, if you have ever suffered from diseases like malaria, pneumonia, heart disease, or tuberculosis, this may disqualify you from signing up, but the final decision will depend on the details of your specific case.

Back pain, in addition to being a common symptom of scoliosis, is one of the factors that can potentially disqualify a person from entering the British Army. However, it's worth noting that none of the effects of scoliosis are immediate barriers, and generally speaking, your spinal curve should only keep you from joining the Army if it has a significant effect on your mobility and/or your overall health.

Matthew's Story

24-year-old Matthew Gilson from Somerset wanted to join the British Armed Forces, but he feared that this ambition would have to be laid to rest when he was diagnosed with scoliosis. He found himself suffering from intense back pain, and this forced him to put his demanding training regime on hold for a while.

Scoliosis sufferer Matthew from Wells

However, after completing a 4-week ScolioGold treatment course here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, Matthew's pain levels had receded massively, and his posture was better as well. This improvement allowed him to re-apply for the Army and continue following his dream of serving in the military.

If you require scoliosis treatment, please contact Scoliosis SOS today to find out how our non-surgical treatment courses may be able to help you.