Sciatica is a fairly broad medical term that usually refers to a painful or tingling sensation in and around the legs. Up to 43% of the population will experience sciatica at some point in their lives, although this depends on how strictly you define the condition.

What does sciatica feel like?

Different people experience different sensations when suffering from sciatica. Some experience stabbing or shooting pains, while others describe the feeling as numb and tingly, not unlike pins and needles.

These sensations may occur in any of the following body parts:

  • Legs (especially the backs of the legs)
  • Feet
  • Buttocks
  • Back

Sciatica usually affects just one side of the body, but it has been known to cause pain / numbness in both sides.

What causes sciatica?

Sciatica

Sciatica arises when the sciatic nerve, which runs from the hip down through the leg, is irritated. This can occur for a wide variety of reasons, including (but not limited to):

  • A herniated spinal disc ('slipped disc')
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Pregnancy
  • Trauma (e.g. from a car crash or sporting accident)

Can scoliosis cause sciatica?

Yes, it can. While sciatica isn't one of the more common symptoms of scoliosis, the two conditions can occur simultaneously, and in some cases, the patient's spinal curve may indeed be the underlying cause of their sciatica.

There are a number of ways in which a curved spine may lead to sciatica (or symptoms that are virtually indistinguishable from sciatica). The most common causes are:

  • Pinched nerve – When the spine curves and twists out of its normal position, it may press up against the sciatic nerve, resulting in pain or a loss of feeling.

  • Putting more weight on one leg than the other – An individual with a twisted spine may end up walking differently, shifting more weight onto one leg to compensate for the change in their posture. While this in itself won't result in sciatica, the overburdened leg may begin to feel painful after a while, and this pain may be mistaken for sciatica.

In other cases, the patient's scoliosis and their sciatica may both be caused by the same underlying condition. As mentioned above, spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis are known to cause sciatica, and both conditions can result in a curvature of the spine as well. To read about how stenosis and spondylolisthesis are linked to scoliosis, click on the corresponding links above.

If you're experiencing pain or discomfort as a result of scoliosis, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic can help. Our ScoliGold treatment method has proven extremely effective in the treatment of patients with curved spines – get in touch now to arrange a consultation.

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.

Scoliosis leg length

It is fairly common for a person with scoliosis to also suffer from uneven legs and/or flat feet. Indeed, one of the key symptoms to look out for when attempting to spot a case of scoliosis is whether the patient has uneven hips and/or legs.

There are two different types of limb length discrepancy (LLD), which are as follows:

  • Functional Leg Length Discrepancy - Functional LLD is caused by scoliosis. A curved spine may cause the pelvis to become uneven, making one leg appear to be longer than the other (even though both legs are actually the same length).

  • Anatomical Leg Length Discrepancy - This is when the structural length of the two legs is actually different (i.e. there is a genuine length difference between one leg and the other).

Anatomical limb length discrepancy can actually lead to scoliosis, since the body tries to compensate for the difference in leg length. This means that scoliosis can both cause and be caused by a difference in leg length.

Luckily, there are some ways to address leg length discrepancy without resorting to corrective surgery.

Treating a scoliosis-related leg length discrepancy

One way to reduce LLD is by using orthotics and/or insoles that are designed to compensate for the difference in leg length. These insoles help to slow down the progression of the spinal curve and relieve some of the discomfort that scoliosis can cause. To learn more about how orthotics and insoles can help with scoliosis-related leg length discrepancies, read our blog on the subject here.

There's also the option to undergo a specialised physical therapy course such as those delivered here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic. Using our own ScolioGold method (a combination of proven non-surgical treatment techniques), we work with each individual patient to determine the best way to improve their scoliosis and leg length discrepancies (if present). After an initial consultation, a specialist will recommend the best course of treatment for your case.

The ScolioGold treatment method has been extremely effective with our patients - see some of the results here. Our treatment programme has helped to reduce pain, improve posture and boost confidence while also reducing the Cobb angle (spinal curve) of our patients.

If you are hoping that we can help you with your scoliosis leg length discrepancies, please get in touch with the Scoliosis SOS team today.

Does Scoliosis Cause Headaches?

We all experience headaches from time to time, and most of them don't seem to occur for any particular reason. But can scoliosis - a sideways spinal curve - contribute to the onset of headaches?

As we've seen time and again on the Scoliosis SOS blog, a curved spine can lead to all sorts of diverse symptoms and ailments, from back pains to indigestion to restricted breathing. Today, we're going to look at whether headaches can be traced to scoliosis as well.

How could scoliosis cause headaches?

Your neck is made out of vertebrae just like the rest of your spine - these are called the cervical vertebrae. There are many structures within your neck, including arteries and veins; the lymph, thyroid and parathyroid glands; your spinal cord; and your trachea, oesophagus and larynx.

When a curve in the upper part of your spine includes some of your cervical vertebrae, the distortion of your neck may have a knock-on effect on some of the body parts listed above. Oddly enough, scoliosis doesn't often cause neck pain, but it may well cause pain in the back of the head. In particular, if the top three cervical vertebrae are affected by your condition, this may well be the source of your head pain.

Cervicogenic headaches

Cervicogenic headaches can originate from damage to the joints, ligaments, muscles, dura mater, intervertebral discs and nerves in the upper neck. In addition to the headache itself, a cervicogenic headache patient may experience dull upper neck pain that can become more of a stabbing pain with certain movements.

Tension headaches

Scoliosis can also cause tension headaches. Tension headaches can occur when the neck or scalp muscles are tensing and contracting due to stress, depression, anxiety or injury. These are the most common type of headache, and result in a band-like constructive pain around the head. Scoliosis causes postural strain, and will often cause this type of muscle tension.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we can help straighten your spinal posture to ease the tension on your neck (among other symptoms). Contact us today to book an initial consultation.

Curved spine

Scoliosis (a sideways curvature of the spine) can affect the body in all sorts of different ways. Most obviously, it affects the way you look: scoliosis patients often lean visibly to one side, and they may also display an unevenness of the shoulders, legs, hips and/or rib cage.

But the visible effects of scoliosis are truly just the tip of the iceberg. A casual observer might only see the curved back, but someone who lives with scoliosis will typically experience a variety of other symptoms ranging from back pain and stiffness to fatigue, digestive problems, and even breathing difficulties.

And then there's the effect that severe scoliosis can have on one's nervous system. Remember, your spine isn't just there to hold you upright - it also houses your spinal cord, the bundle of nerves that allows your brain to communicate with the rest of your body. If the spine is greatly distorted because of scoliosis or a similar condition, this can disrupt nervous system activity in some pretty problematic ways.

The effects of severe scoliosis on the nervous system

First of all, it's important to note that mild to moderate cases of scoliosis generally don't affect the nervous system in any noticeable way. Unless you have a very pronounced spinal curvature, it is quite unlikely that you will experience any of the symptoms we're about to discuss.

However, as the curvature of your spine progresses further and further beyond what is considered normal, there's a chance that the increasing distortion of your body may end up putting pressure on nearby nerves. When this occurs, parts of your body may begin to feel numb, weak and/or painful - this happens because the pressure is interfering with the signals that travel through your nervous system. This sometimes manifests as a mildly irritating tingle in one's lower extremities, but in the worst cases, the pressure on the nerves can actually affect the patient's ability to walk normally.

Depending on the location of the irritated/pinched nerve(s), scoliosis patients may also find that they are having trouble controlling their bladder and bowel functions. Not being aware of when you need to go to the toilet is another sign that your spinal curvature may be disrupting your nervous system.

How can I avoid these symptoms?

As mentioned above, these things generally won't happen to the average scoliosis sufferer unless their curve is allowed to progress past a certain point. For this reason, the best way to minimise the risk of scoliosis affecting your nervous system is to treat your scoliosis - halt its progression and reduce your Cobb angle to a point at which the condition is unlikely to interfere with your daily life too drastically.

This can be achieved via spinal fusion surgery, but this procedure usually won't be offered to a scoliosis patient until their curve has already progressed beyond a certain point. Fortunately, non-surgical treatment methods such as ScolioGold therapy can also be very effective when it comes to reversing the progression of scoliosis and combating the various symptoms it causes.

If you or a loved one suffer from scoliosis and you would like to attend a treatment course at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, please contact us now to arrange an initial consultation.

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