Scoliosis and Depression

It's not uncommon for people with scoliosis to feel depressed from time to time. Scoliosis is a lifelong condition, and it can be hard to come to terms with this, but that doesn't mean that scoliosis patients can't live physically and emotionally fulfilling lives.

In this blog post, we'd like to discuss the connection between scoliosis and depression and what can be done about it.

Why might scoliosis lead to depression?

The link between scoliosis and depression is reasonably well-established; this population-based study, for example, concluded that "patients with scoliosis may have an increased risk of depression" and that "health care professionals should consider designing and planning effective psychological prevention and treatment for scoliosis patients".

There are several possible explanations for this connection. The visible symptoms of scoliosis (e.g. leaning to one side, shoulders sitting at different heights) can result in low self-esteem and negative body image (especially in young people) and this can be compounded by the limited range of treatment options available in some territories. Braces can be uncomfortable and unflattering, and recovering from spinal fusion surgery can be physically and mentally draining and may make the patient feel isolated. Whether or not these factors can cause depression, they may well exacerbate it if it already exists.

Many people with scoliosis will feel depressed about their condition at some point, but the severity and persistence of that depression can vary drastically depending on the patient's age, their recovery prospects, the size of their spinal curvature(s), and any number of other factors.

How can you tell if someone is depressed?

If you know someone with scoliosis, look out for the following symptoms of depression:

  • Loss of interest in things they previously enjoyed
  • Noticeably lower energy levels
  • Unusual, out-of-character and/or reckless behaviour (e.g. drug use, excessive drinking)
  • Expression of suicidal thoughts (even if they seem to be joking - talking about suicide in any manner can be a cry for help)

What should I do if I feel depressed?

IMPORTANT: If you are feeling suicidal, please consider calling a suicide crisis line. If you're in the UK, you can call Samaritans now on 116 123. For other countries, see this list of suicide crisis lines.

  • Talk to someone. Whether you are reaching out to a friend, a family member, or a professional counsellor, simply talking about your depression can be a large step towards overcoming it. If you are suffering because of your scoliosis, it may be beneficial to speak to other people with this condition, as they will be able to empathise with you in a way that others can't. Look at our list of scoliosis support groups to see if there's a group in your area.

  • Visit your doctor. Your GP may be able to help you deal with your depression and can prescribe antidepressants / refer you for additional therapy if necessary.

  • Treat your scoliosis. If you think that your depression is linked to your scoliosis, you may wish to look into different treatment methods that could help you to reduce the angle of your curvature and feel better both physically and mentally.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we use a combination of non-invasive treatment techniques to help people with scoliosis and other spinal conditions. If you're interested in attending a consultation session to discuss treatment options, please click the button below to get in touch.

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When treating a child or teen with a curvature of the spine, doctors will often recommend bracing as a way of halting the curve's progression.

Back braces come in a variety of forms, each designed to prevent/minimise curvature development while the patient grows. Here, we look at two of the most well-known brace types: the Milwaukee brace and the Boston brace.

Milwaukee brace for scoliosis

Milwaukee brace

The Milwaukee brace may be prescribed to individuals who possess high thoracic (upper back) curves. It has an unusual design that is intended to manipulate the patient's full upper body: the brace extends from the pelvis all the way up to the neck, and it's manufactured with a contoured plastic pelvic girdle and neck ring, connected by a metal bar in both the front and back of the brace.

These metal bars play an important role, helping the torso extend while the neck ring keeps the head in a central position over the pelvis. Pressure pads are strategically attached to the metal bars with straps in accordance with the shape of the patient's spinal curvature.

The Milwuakee brace (first developed in 1945 by Dr Albert Schmidt and Dr Walter Blount of the Medical College of Wisconsin and Milwaukee's Children's Hospital) is viewed by many as the first modern brace designed for the treatment of scoliosis. It has undergone a number of tweaks over the years, although the current design has been in use since 1975.

The Milwaukee brace is far less common now that form-fitting plastic braces are available. However, it is still prescribed for some scoliosis patients with curves located very high in the spine.

Boston brace for scoliosis

Boston brace

The Boston brace was first developed in the early 1970s by Mr William Miller and Dr John Hall of The Boston Children's Hospital. It is a a type of thoracolumbosacral orthosis (TLSO), and it's one of the most commonly-used brace options when it comes to treating scoliosis.

TLSO braces are commonly referred to as 'underarm' or 'low-profile' braces. The Boston brace is much smaller and far less bulky than the Milwaukee brace, with plastic components custom-made to fit the patient's body exactly. The Boston brace covers most of the torso; at the front, it starts below the breast and extends all the way to the beginning of the pelvic area, while at the back, it starts below the shoulder blades all the way down to the tail bone of the spine.

This type of brace works by applying three-point pressure to the curve pattern in order to prevent further progression. This forces the lumbar areas to 'flex', pushing in the abdomen and flattening the posterior lumbar curve.

ScolioGold therapy and other treatments

If you've been diagnosed with scoliosis (or another curvature of the spine) and wear a back brace to help halt the progression of your curve, it is a good idea to undergo specialised physiotherapy as well. The sole purpose of a back brace is to stop the curve in your spine worsening during periods of growth; it does very little to assist in the building of the muscles needed for stability once the brace has been removed. To learn more about the specialised treatment courses for brace wearers that we offer here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, please click here.

In some cases, the treatment courses that we deliver can eliminate the need to wear a brace altogether! Please use the links below to find out more and book your Scoliosis SOS consultation.

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Quality of life

Quality of life is defined as 'the general wellbeing of a person or society, defined in terms of health and happiness rather than wealth' (Collins English Dictionary). In this blog post, we will explore what quality of life means for a person with scoliosis, and we will look at the ways in which our ScolioGold treatment programme can help to improve quality of life for scoliosis patients.

What is life like for a person with scoliosis?

The symptoms of scoliosis - and their severity - vary greatly from one case to the next. Here are some of the ways in which this condition can affect an individual's quality of life:

  • Body Image - A curved spine can have a big impact on one's overall appearance: hips and shoulders may be uneven, ribs may protrude, and the patient might have an uneven gait while walking. As a result, some people with scoliosis end up feeling insecure about how they look. This reduced confidence can prevent them from doing things they would otherwise have liked to do, such as wearing a particular type of clothing or participating in certain activities. Low self-esteem is particularly common in young people with scoliosis.

  • Pain & Discomfort - Beyond the cosmetic effects of scoliosis, those with curved spines may also experience recurring back pain and reduced mobility/flexibility. This can prevent them from playing sports, carrying heavy weights, and in extreme cases, even carrying out everyday tasks like bathing and getting dressed.

However, many scoliosis patients are able to maintain an active and fulfilling lifestyle in spite of their condition. Assisting with this is one of our key aims here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic - we want our patients to keep on enjoying their favourite activities and living the lives they choose for themselves!

Can ScolioGold treatment improve quality of life?

Our 4-week ScolioGold treatment courses are specifically designed to improve overall quality of life for scoliosis patients. Our ScolioGold programme combines a variety of exercises and methods that are tailored to each individual's specific condition to help them achieve the results they want.

While undergoing treatment with us, patients learn and practise exercises that improve their mobility, reduce their spinal curvature and relieve their back pain. This often has the knock-on effect of improving their self-confidence and body image.

ScolioGold Quality of Life Treatment

Putting our treatment to the test

In 2016, we at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic conducted a study to test the effectiveness of ScolioGold therapy on patients' quality of life. 161 patients took part in this study (97% provided pre-treatment data; 68% provided pre- and post-treatment data).

The patients were asked to fill out an SRS-30 and an EQ5D5L questionnaire. These measure quality of life on factors such as:

  • Mobility
  • Self-care
  • Usual activities
  • Pain
  • Anxiety and depression

The results of this study demonstrated that the ScolioGold method was associated with a significant improvement in factors measured across both the SRS-30 and EQ5D5L questionnaires. Click the button below to view the results in full.

View the full research report >

If you'd like to find out more about our ScolioGold treatment programme, or if you'd like to book a consultation, please get in touch with us today.

Lower Back Mobilisation

In the physiotherapy world, the word mobility refers to the freedom of movement that exists in a muscle or group of muscles. People with scoliosis often experience reduced mobility in their backs (frequently accompanied by pain).

Regularly performing lower back mobilisation exercises can help to:

  • Strengthen muscles in the lower back
  • Improve posture
  • Relieve lower back pain
  • Increase mobility
  • Reduce the likelihood of injury

There are lots of different mobility exercises that you can try. Here at Scoliosis SOS, we try to tailor all of our corrective exercises to each patient's specific condition - the exercise, how often you should do it, and the other exercises we recommend incorporating into your routine are largely dependant on the severity of your scoliosis, and on your end goal. If you are someone who wants to run a marathon, you may need to perform lower back mobilisation exercises more frequently than someone with no such aspirations.

Watch the video below for a lower back mobilisation exercise that has helped many of our scoliosis patients.

This exercise uses a flat surface (e.g. the wall or the floor) to straighten your spine while you stretch your lower back muscles. Over time, repetition of this exercise will not only improve mobility and posture, it will also help to relieve tension and pain in the lower back.

If you suffer from scoliosis and think you may benefit from one of our exercise-based treatment courses, please get in touch today. We're happy to answer any questions you might have.

Contact Scoliosis SOS >   More Scoliosis Exercises >

Back Strengthening Exercise

Individuals with idiopathic scoliosis don't always experience pain as a result of this condition, but there may be a loss of back strength depending on the severity of the spinal curvature. With the right exercises, however, this can be overcome - for instance, it may be beneficial to place greater emphasis on enhancing the strength, range of motion, and length-tension relationship of the working muscles on either side of the vertebral column.

Range of Motion

Defined as the 'measurement of movement around a specific joint in the body', range of motion simply refers to how freely a particular part of your body can move. In the case of idiopathic scoliosis, an 'S' or 'C' curve can result in shortened musculature on the concave working muscles of the spine. These differences can dramatically decrease the unilateral range of motion at different joints in the spine, leading to reduced mobility and irregularities in one's posture.

Strength

Back strength is essential for balance, posture and the transmission of power throughout the body. Each of these factors can make a big difference to everyday activities such as going up and down stairs, picking up objects, and standing up from a sitting position. Incorporating back strengthening exercises into a corrective scoliosis treatment programme can significantly improve functional strength and postural symmetry.

Flexibility

Defined as the 'ability of a joint to move freely through its range of motion', flexibility is an important consideration for scoliosis therapists as it plays a vital role in restoring a regular length-tension relationship in the patient's tightened skeletal muscles. Improved flexibility can result in enhanced postural symmetry, improved performance, reduced pain, and minimised risk of further injuries.

The video below showcases an effective back strengthening exercise that you can try at home:

Regular exercise is vital when attempting to correct and alleviate the symptoms of scoliosis. The exercise in the video above is just one of many that can aid in improving the strength, flexibility and range of motion in your spine.

More Scoliosis Exercises >   Contact Scoliosis SOS >