International Federation for Spina Bifida

Friday 25 October 2019 is World Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Day. This year also marks the milestone 40th anniversary of the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus.

What is Spina Bifida?

To mark this occasion, we'd like to share the story of Samantha Joyce, a Scoliosis SOS patient who has spina bifida as well as scoliosis.

 

Patient Story: Samantha from Sidcup

Samantha is a woman from Sidcup, Greater London who got in touch with the Scoliosis SOS Clinic after our recent appearance on BBC One. She was diagnosed with scoliosis at 11 years old; she also has spina bifida and hydrocephalus.

Samantha was prescribed a scoliosis brace, and when she was 13, surgeons placed screws in her spine in order to correct her spinal curve. Unfortunately, this operation did not have the desired effect - after a long and arduous recovery process, Samantha had to have the screws removed at the age of 18 because they had caused an abscess and she had lost the use of her left leg!

Samantha is now in her 40s, and she was still experiencing back pain as a result of her scoliosis and her spina bifida. She came to the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in the hope that our therapists would be able to help her - watch the video below to find out how she got on.

Feedback from Samantha

"Thank you all so very much for all you have done. I'm so glad I found out about this clinic and had the opportunity to experience the wonderful work you do.

"It's amazing how I have changed since I started: pain-free, more definition in my legs, and my whole body feels freer. A friend said, without prompting, how much straighter I was sitting, and I'm able to sit and stand for longer without any pain.

"I have now been discharged from King's College Hospital after a year and a half. Thank you for being a valued part of my recovery, and keep up the fantastic work you do - it's invaluable!"

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Syringomyelia

While the Scoliosis SOS Clinic specialises in the study and treatment of curvatures of the spine (primarily scoliosis and hyperkyphosis), we also possess a wealth of knowledge relating to many health problems that are closely linked to these spinal conditions. One such condition is syringomyelia, a chronic illness that causes a fluid-filled cavity or cyst to form within the spinal cord.

In this post, we will discuss syringomyelia in greater detail, looking at the symptoms and exploring its connection with scoliosis.

What is syringomyelia?

Syringomyelia occurs when a syrinx (cyst) forms within the spinal cord, expanding over time and disrupting the surrounding tissue. In the majority of cases, the condition is linked to a brain abnormality called a Chiari malformation. In other cases, syringomyelia can also be caused by meningitis, tumours, and physical trauma; it can also be idiopathic (having no underlying cause, like most cases of scoliosis itself).

The condition usually takes one of three forms:

  • Congenital - In these cases, the syringomyelia is linked to an abnormality of the craniovertebral junction (e.g. a Chiari malformation).

  • Secondary - Refers to cases with no obvious cause, or those that occur due to specific known causes which have damaged the spinal cord.

  • Post-traumatic - This is used to categorise cases which result from trauma to the spinal cord.

What are the symptoms of syringomyelia?

While symptoms and their severity can vary greatly from patient to patient, some common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the back/neck/shoulders, as well as some pain or tingling in the arms and hands.
  • Muscle weakness and wasting, particularly in the arms/hands/shoulders.
  • Numbness/loss of sensation in the fingers/arms/upper chest.
  • Pain and stiffness in the legs.
  • Uncoordinated movements and involuntary muscle contractions.
  • Abnormal sideways curvature of the spine (scoliosis).

How is syringomyelia linked to scoliosis?

As mentioned above, scoliosis most often presents itself without an underlying cause. However, many cases of scoliosis arise as a result of syringomyelia - this is especially common in younger patients (syringomyelia sufferers under the age of 16 are far more likely to have scoliosis than those who develop symptoms later in life). In terms of treatment, it is considered important to treat the syringomyelia before addressing the patient's scoliosis, as this allows improvement of the syrinx to be properly assessed.

Here at Scoliosis SOS, our treatment approach is carefully considered in order to ensure that all aspects of the individual's condition are addressed. This means that our treatment courses can be specifically tailored to the needs and constraints of the patient in order to achieve the best results.

Take a look at this video case study to find out how our treatment programme helped Grace, a 15-year-old syringomyelia patient from Essex:

If you are a syringomyelia sufferer, or a former syringomyelia patient who has received treatment but is still struggling with scoliosis, please get in touch with Scoliosis SOS today. Or for any other questions you may have about anything scoliosis related, Call us on 0207 488 4428 or fill in our contact form to request an initial consultation.

Hyperlordosis vs. Healthy Spine
 

As you'll know if you've read our blog post on the subject, hyperlordosis is an excessive curvature of the lumbar spine (that is, the lower portion of the backbone). Whereas the spine of a scoliosis patient curves sideways, the spine of somebody with hyperlordosis curves inward, resulting in an unusually arched posture among a number of other symptoms.

Symptoms of hyperlordosis

While no two cases of hyperlordosis are precisely alike, the following symptoms are common among hyperlordosis sufferers:
  • Back pain and stiffness
  • Muscular imbalance
  • Reduced flexibility
  • Visibly arched posture (inward curve of the lower back, causing the buttocks and stomach to stick out)
One telltale sign of hyperlordosis can be seen when the patient lies on their back. A lower back curve will mean that the person's lower back will be raised up off the floor.

Hyperlordosis treatment methods

Hyperlordosis treatment usually aims to halt and reverse the progression of the curvature and alleviate symptoms such as back pain and muscular imbalance. These goals can be achieved in a number of different ways - common hyperlordosis treatment methods include:
  • Bracing. If the patient is young and still growing, they may be told to wear a back brace. This is usually a rigid plastic shell that effectively holds the back's shape and prevents the curve from becoming more pronounced as the wearer's body grows.

  • Surgery. In extreme cases, spinal surgery may be recommended to reduce the degree of the patient's lordotic curve and ease some of the symptoms. This will usually not be considered as an option for mild to moderate cases of hyperlordosis.

  • Medication. If the patient's excessively curved spine is causing chronic pain and perpetual discomfort, pain relief medications of various strengths may be prescribed in order to battle this symptom.

  • Exercise / physical therapy. As with scoliosis and hyperkyphosis, exercise-based physical therapy can be an effective option for hyperlordosis patients, particularly when it comes to improving flexibility, restoring muscle balance, and improving overall quality of life.
Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London, we specialise in the fourth and final treatment method: exercise-based physical therapy. We have treated numerous hyperlordosis patients with mild to moderate to severe spinal curves, and if you or a loved one suffer from a curvature of the lower spine, we would be more than happy to hear from you.
 
Contact Scoliosis SOS today to discuss your condition and your treatment requirements.

Further reading

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.
Spondylolisthesis
 
The human spine (also known as the backbone or, more properly, the vertebral column) is made up of numerous small bones called vertebrae. When a vertebra is damaged or displaced, the knock-on effects can have serious consequences for the health of the entire back and even of the body as a whole.
 
One good example of this is a condition called spondylolisthesis.

What is spondylolisthesis?

Spondylolisthesis occurs when a vertebra slips out of place so that it is no longer aligned with the rest of the spine. This can happen for a number of reasons: some people are born with defects that lead to spondylolisthesis, but it can also be caused by a blow to the spine, a tumour, and the body's natural ageing process, among other things.
 
Spondylolisthesis usually occurs in the lower (lumbar) spine, although it can happen further up too.

So, spondylolisthesis is the same as a slipped disc?

No. The phrase 'slipped disc' is perhaps a little misleading - it really has nothing to with vertebrae slipping out of place. Rather, a slipped disc occurs when one of the 'discs' that sit in between your vertebrae becomes ruptured. If this happens, the nucleus pulposus (a gel-like substance inside each disc) may bulge out through the wall of the disc, putting pressure on your nerves and resulting in pain.
 
This phenomenon is unrelated to spondylolisthesis, which affects the vertebrae rather than the discs that separate them.

Spondylolisthesis symptoms

Spondylolisthesis sufferers may notice some or all of the following symptoms:
  • Back pain and/or stiffness
  • Tightness of the leg muscles
  • Sciatica (pain or discomfort of the legs and/or buttocks)
  • Curvature of the spine (see below)
That being said, some people with spondylolisthesis don't notice any symptoms at all.

Spondylolisthesis and scoliosis - what's the connection?

As noted above, one possible outcome of spondylolisthesis is a curve in one's spine. Scoliosis (a sideways curve) or hyperkyphosis (a forward curve) may develop due to the weakening of the backbone that occurs when a vertebrae moves out of place.
 
Scoliosis and hyperkyphosis can themselves lead to a number of health issues, including:
  • Back pain
  • Reduced mobility and/or flexibility
  • Compromised breathing
A curved spine can also have visible effects (e.g. uneven shoulders, prominent ribcage), which in turn may result in reduced self-esteem and a negative body image.

Treating scoliosis and spondylolisthesis

Whether your spine is curved as a result of spondylolisthesis or another underlying condition, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London can help you. Our exercise-based ScolioGold treatment programme has been fine-tuned to specifically address the needs of scoliosis and hyperkyphosis sufferers, and the results we achieve are consistently outstanding.
 
We use a variety of physiotherapy methods to treat those suffering from spondylolisthesis, such as: 
  • Schroth Method
  • Rigo-Schroth Method
  • FITS Method
  • PNF Technique 
  • SEAS Method
  • Taping

Click here to read about all the different methods we use to treat our patients' spinal conditions.

For more information about our treatment courses, or to book an initial session with one of our consultants, please contact us today