Two friends comforting each other

Scoliosis can be a painful and debilitating condition that makes even the simplest tasks uncomfortable.

Seeing a loved one go through such discomfort can be agonising to watch. However, you don't have to stand idly by - here are five simple things you can do to help someone with scoliosis today.

 

1. Be Available

People with long-term illnesses, conditions and disabilities often find it hard to ask for help.

In fact, some may actively avoid seeking outside help, preferring to deal with the problem on their own.

But even in those cases, knowing that there's a shoulder you can lean on when things get too much can make all the difference.

Being there as an emotional and physical crutch when your friend or loved one needs you is the ultimate sign of support, so don't be afraid to let them know your door is always open.

 

2. Prepare for Change

Scoliosis can cause excruciating pain at inopportune times. This can cause plans to change at the drop of hat, with last-minute cancellations a natural by-product.

While this can be somewhat frustrating, try not to make a big deal out of it. Remember, the other person is probably just as disappointed as you are, and on top of that, they may well feel guilty for letting you down.

Be understanding and reassure them that whatever it was can be rearranged for another time.

 

3. Look Past the Condition

Helping someone deal with scoliosis doesn't necessarily mean physically helping them with their daily tasks or providing them with pain relief.

In fact, helping someone with scoliosis can be as easy as helping them put it in the rear-view mirror and forget about the pain for a few hours.

Walking on eggshells and being overly aware of their ailment will only bring attention to it. Scoliosis doesn't change the person they are, so why should it affect the way you act around them?

 

4. Accept Their Tiredness

Enduring a prolonged period of pain can be exhausting. For scoliosis sufferers, even simple everyday tasks can be taxing at times.

What's more, a busy day of activities or a bad day involving a flare-up can leave them totally wiped out and feeling tired, lethargic, and generally less than 100%.

Dragging them out or pressuring them into taking part when the tank is empty can not only impact their enjoyment, but it can also impact their physical health after the fact.

Accept that when your friend or loved one says they're too tired to do something, they really mean it. It's nothing to do with you.

 

5. Mental Awareness

Like any physical ailment, scoliosis can have a negative effect on mental health, from impacting self-image to making the patient more introverted and withdrawn.

Infographic: How Does Scoliosis Affect Body Image?

Scoliosis can naturally exclude a person from taking part in things they love, such as sports and recreational activities.

Meanwhile, as previously mentioned, it can also prevent them from doing things they want to do and impact on plans made.

The result of this can have a knock-on effect on mental health, particularly if several setbacks occur in quick succession.

Be aware of mental health and, if there are signs that depression may be creeping in, don't hesitate to step in and help.

Read More: Scoliosis & Depression   Book a Scoliosis Consultation

The Scoliosis SOS Clinic was founded in 2006 by our Clinic Principal, Erika Maude. Erika opened the clinic because she herself had suffered from scoliosis since childhood and wanted to offer people an alternative to spinal fusion surgery.

Here, Erika answers some questions about her personal experience with scoliosis and her future plans for the clinic.

Scoliosis SOS Clinic founder Erika Maude

Can you tell us a bit about your experience with scoliosis?

My mother first noticed that something was wrong with my back when I was bending over one day. She took me along to our GP, who diagnosed me as having AIS (adolescent idiopathic scoliosis) but told us not to worry as I would likely "grow out of it". Over the coming months, this didn't happen, and after countless appointments back with the GP she finally convinced him that my condition was getting worse and to refer me to see an orthopaedic consultant.

The orthopaedic specialist took one look at my 34-degree curvature on an X-ray and pronounced me an immediate case for spinal fusion surgery. I eventually persuaded him to let me try the alternative: a Boston brace (hard plastic corset), worn for 23 hours per day between my 13th and 15th birthdays.

Unfortunately this didn't work, and after 2 years my curve had progressed to 42 degrees. My consultant warned me that if I didn't have surgery, I'd end up in a wheelchair.

 

What inspired you to set up the Scoliosis SOS clinic?

After that fatalistic prognosis from my orthopaedic consultant, my family set about finding an alternative, which eventually lead us to a tiny clinic in Spain where I went to receive treatment in 2003.

My inspiration to open the clinic came from a desire to keep people from having to go through the experience I had, and also to help the people who are failed by the lack of options available through the NHS. It is so empowering to see patients of all ages take control of their condition and care, and it's wonderful that we've been able to help so many people from all over the world.

 

What advice would you give someone who has just been diagnosed with scoliosis?

Definitely act promptly! Never underestimate how aggressive scoliosis can be, particularly in children. My friend recently diagnosed her granddaughter with the help of our screening video (see below), which I'd shared on my Facebook page. It was great to see the family act so quickly to get her referred for an X-ray and get started with an exercise programme while they waited for an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist.

With adults it's a little different, but depending on one's lifestyle, symptoms can still develop or worsen rapidly - that's often what has caused the condition to be noticed in the first place. Don't suffer in silence; there are lots of support groups and sympathetic people you can talk to. Our patient care co-ordinators enjoy answering questions and offering advice to patients and their families following a recent diagnosis or hospital appointment.

 

What are your goals for the clinic over the next year?

We are in the process of developing regional clinics to make treatment more accessible to people across the UK. Our first locations in Birmingham and Bristol opened last month, and we're planning to add further locations in early 2020.

 

What do you get up to when you're not working?

I love being active, so after work, I'm often to be found at Pineapple Dance Studios learning a new routine - it's a great way to forget the stresses of the day and really switch off. Such a diverse group of people attend my class, from semi-professional dancers to senior partners of City law firms; it's a brilliant way to socialise and keep fit at the same time.

When I get a bit longer out of the office, I enjoy getting out on the water. A couple of years ago I sailed across the Atlantic, but usually, it is more coastal cruising, although recently I've really got into learning about celestial navigation…

Erika on a boat

If, like Erika, you've been diagnosed with scoliosis and it's causing you distress, be sure to explore our exercise-based scoliosis treatment courses.

Our Treatment Methods   Book a Consultation

Mindfulness meditation

At its most basic, 'mindfulness' refers to an individual's conscious presence in the here and now, focusing on the moment and one's current surroundings.

But mindfulness also extends to the way we react to situations, with a strong emphasis on maintaining a calm and calculated approach to what's going on.

"What does that have to do with scoliosis?" we hear you ask. Well, potentially, quite a lot.

 

Mindfulness and Pain Relief

According to the Dalai Lama, "if a person's basic state of mind is serene and calm, then it is possible for this inner peace to overwhelm a painful physical experience".

In other words, practising mindfulness can help us to cope with physical pain and discomfort as well as being a useful stress management technique.

 

A Brief History of Mindfulness and Scoliosis

This holistic approach to long-term medical conditions is nothing new. In fact, way back in the 4th century BC, Hippocrates was believed to have stressed the healing power of nature and said to have encouraged self-healing methods.

Additionally, it's well-documented that methods not unlike mindfulness have been in use for centuries, notably playing a big role in the ancient medical traditions of both India and China. Meanwhile, Buddhist monks have long been associated with this meditative approach to health and wellbeing.

 

Mindfulness Studies and Results

According to an article published on RelaxTheBack.com, a study conducted by the University of Montreal compared the pain tolerance of Zen monks well-versed in meditation to that of non-meditators.

The results showed that the monks' pain sensitivity rate was 18% lower, while MRI results concluded that they also had a thicker orbitofrontal cortex, suggesting that this area of the brain was responsible for meditation-based pain relief.

A further study by the University of California, San Diego found that, after completing a 20-minute mindfulness meditation session each day for just 4 days, test subjects reduced their pain response by 44%. The same test was done on another group, replacing meditation with a dose of morphine. The morphine resulted in a pain reduction of just 20%.

Additional evidence was published in the April 2011 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, which reported that 80 minutes of mindfulness meditation could cut pain perception almost in half.

 

Mindfulness and Scoliosis

So let's apply this theory to scoliosis. If the above figures are correct, theoretically, modern-day mindfulness techniques could help to decrease scoliosis pain.

What's more, the mental benefits may also help scoliosis sufferers to cope with the condition psychologically, fending off the anxiety and depression that can accompany long-term ailments like scoliosis.

 

Practice Mindfulness with Scoliosis

Stereotypical meditation positioning requires you to be sat up straight, cross-legged on the floor. This may not be very comfortable for someone with scoliosis!

Luckily, mindfulness meditation can be modified to fit your body's needs. Whether you need to use a chair, sit against a wall or lie down on your back, you're free to find the position that's most comfortable for you.

Daily meditation in a relaxed environment could be a great way to help combat the negative effects of scoliosis. At the very least, it's definitely worth a shot.

Learn about our scoliosis treatment methods >

Office chair

For many people with scoliosis, back pain and spinal discomfort are a constant nuisance throughout the day, even when sitting down. This can be especially problematic when you're in work - it's hard to get things done when you're struggling to find a comfortable sitting position!

 

Office chairs for people with scoliosis

Most office-based jobs require you to be sat at your desk for hours at a time, staring at a screen that's two feet in front of you and typing away at a keyboard - hardly the ideal seating scenario for someone with scoliosis.

In fact, according to workplaceinsight.net, an astounding 81% of us spend 4 to 9 hours a day sitting at our desks. To put that into context, that's about as much time as most of us spend asleep at night.

Sitting at your desk, locked in the same position hour after hour can lead to stiffness and soreness even if your spine is straight - let alone if you're already coping with scoliosis. Luckily, there are lots of ergonomic office chairs available for a range of budgets.

 

What's the best office chair for someone with scoliosis?

The iconic Aeron chair by Herman Miller is a good place to start.

Known globally as "America's best-selling office chair", this classic desk chair has become so well-established since its invention in '92 that it's now featured in the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection.

Updated to meet the demands of the 21st century worker, the Aeron of today features "stronger and smarter materials, better adjustment capabilities, intuitive controls, enhanced aeration, and a health-positive, more comfortable sit".

That being said, such ample spinal support doesn't come cheap - the Aeron typically retails at around the £1,000 mark. Even if you're buying second-hand, it's not unusual for this chair to fetch around £500.

For a worthy substitute, the HÅG SoFi range is another great solution to your office woes and clocks in at around £700. With padded lumbar support, arm/foot/head rests and a variety of customisable features, it's a great alternative to the pricier Aeron.

 

Affordable scoliosis chairs for the office

For a more economical office solution that won't empty the rainy day fund, the Murray and Isaac ranges from John Lewis are also effective in terms of ergonomic support.

Retailing within the more reasonable £250 to £300 range, these seats feature form-comforting mesh, adjustable armrests and lumbar support, with the Isaac model also boasting a neck support for additional posture alignment.

However, if this still seems a little out of your price range, there are still plenty of other cost-effective solutions to be found online, while your local furniture shop may also have a variety of options in store to try out.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when searching for your perfect chair:

  • Look for high-back chairs with a posture curved seat

  • Adjustable arm rests and neck rests are also ideal features that can help increase comfort and relieve spinal stress

  • Additional lumbar support can also be provided with a supplemental aid if necessary

 

Specialist scoliosis chairs

While the ergonomic office chairs listed above may be suitable for those with mild scoliosis, specialist seating products may be the best choice for those with extreme / severe cases of spinal curvature.

From directed positioning of the pelvis to the use of neck and lateral supports, specialist seating can actively contribute to easing the pain of scoliosis.

Designed to reduce slumping, minimise neck flexion and promote a neutral midline from head to pelvis, specialist scoliosis chairs offer a variety of spine-straightening perks that are not found in standard seating products.

Some specialist chairs also feature "tilt-in-space" functionality, providing adjustable seat positioning to alleviate gravitational discomfort. Also known as "power tilt", this function allows the chair to achieve a recline of up to 60 degrees while keeping your hips and knees at 90-degree angles.

One great example of a specialist office chair for people with scoliosis is the DuoBack from Rohde & Grahl. This product is well worth exploring for any office worker who frequently feels the strain of scoliosis at work.

Here at Scoliosis SOS, we offer ergonomic assessments and postural seating advice to all patients as part of our comprehensive specialist treatment programmes. Call 0207 488 4428 or fill out our online enquiry form to discuss your condition further.

Read More: Coping with Scoliosis When You Work at a Desk

Non-Surgical Scoliosis Treatment from Scoliosis SOS >>

Image courtesy of Pexels

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we've seen first-hand what a huge impact scoliosis can have people's lives.

That's why it makes us so happy whenever we learn that our non-surgical treatment has helped someone to overcome their spinal curve and live life as they wish.

If you've got dreams of living life outdoors, but you're concerned that scoliosis will keep you from realising those dreams, we hope you'll take encouragement from some of our success stories:

Emily Harman, Scuba Diver

"I feel like a new person. My back is straighter and I feel like I look normal...I'm going on as many scuba diving holidays as I can fit in!"

Read Emily's Story >

 

Katie Brixton, Sailor

"I feel like I am back in control and I am getting used to being able to sail again without pain. It really is amazing the work that takes place in those treatment rooms."

Read Katie's Story >

 

Ken Higgbert, Golfer

"I feel I have been reborn and I am definitely going to live every day to the full. People take their health for granted but I definitely won't."

Read Ken's Story >

 

Timothy Cart, Climber

"Once I started to read about what the exercises involved and how they worked I was even more excited. For the first time since my diagnosis, I could see an end to all the back pain I was suffering."

Read Timothy's Story >

 

Ronan Hogan, Go-Karting

"I just feel so relieved - there are no words to describe how grateful I am to the SOS team. They worked so hard at getting my back sorted. I don't think I was a very easy case but they have made such a difference to my life."

Read Ronan's Story >

 

If your scoliosis is preventing you from taking part in your favourite outdoor activities, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Scoliosis SOS Clinic to find out how we can help you. Call 0207 488 4428 to speak to one of our expert Patient Care Coordinators, or use the links below to find out more.

Our Treatment Method   Book a Consultation

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