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.

Previously on the Scoliosis SOS blog, we have talked about some of the exercises that scoliosis sufferers can perform at home in order to combat their condition. But while these exercises work well on a sideways spinal curve, they may not be so effective if you suffer from hyperkyphosis - a forward curve of the upper (thoracic) spine.

We at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic treat each patient using a combination of non-surgical spinal techniques to ensure that all aspects of their condition are fully treated, without the use of a brace or spinal fusion surgery. To help you overcome your hyperkyphosis, we're going to run through a few exercises you can do at home that will help relieve some of your symptoms.

Please note that these stretches should not be used as a substitute for a full treatment course delivered by a chartered physiotherapist.

Superman Stretch

Superman Stretch

  1. Lie on your stomach and extend your hands in front of your head.
  2. Keeping your head in a neutral position, look towards the floor, and lift your legs and arms up towards the ceiling.
  3. Reach away from your body with your hands and feet.
  4. Hold this position for 3 seconds, and repeat 10 times.

 

Happy Cat Sad Cat Stretch

Happy Cat, Sad Cat Stretch

The goal of this stretch is to increase the mobility of your spine.

  1. On all fours, place your knees hip-width apart, with your hands under your shoulders. Keep your spine in a neutral position.
  2. Round your back, tuck your bottom under, and drop your head between your arms.
  3. Holding this position, inhale and try to curve your back even further to increase the stretch.
  4. Then, during exhalation, arch your back, stick your bottom out, and look up towards the ceiling.
  5. Repeat this cycle 10 times, using your breathing to help you slowly transition between the two positions.

 

Head Retraction Stretch

Head Retraction Stretch 

The goal of this exercise is to stretch and exercise weakened neck muscles.

  1. Lie down on the floor, and pull your chin in as if you were trying to make a double chin.
  2. Hold this for 15 seconds, and repeat five to ten times.

 

Chin Retraction Stretch

Chin Retraction Stretch

This exercise stretches your deep neck extensors.

  1. Stand up as straight as you can - you can do this against a wall if it helps. 
  2. Tuck your chin slightly, and bring your head back directly over your shoulders. 
  3. Bring own, and hold this position for 30 seconds - take a break if you begin to feel pain.

If you suffer from hyperkyphosis, please do not be afraid to contact us - we'd be overjoyed to help you overcome your condition with our non-surgical treatment regime.

Disclaimer: The above information should not be treated as medical advice and the scoliosis exercises described may not be suitable or beneficial for everyone. You should not begin any exercise routine without consulting a qualified health practitioner, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, elderly, or if you have any chronic or recurring conditions. Any application of scoliosis exercises suggested is at the reader's sole discretion and risk. Scoliosis SOS accepts no responsibility or liability for any loss or injuries caused directly or indirectly through the performing of any exercises described. If you feel any discomfort or pain during exercise, stop immediately. Always consult your own GP if you are in any way concerned about your health or anything associated with it.

Before and After Scoliosis Treatment

Scoliosis is defined as any sideways spinal curvature that measures 10 degrees or more (see Cobb angle). That being said, any curve measuring less than around 25 degrees is considered quite mild and generally less likely to require immediate medical attention. For context, spinal fusion surgery is usually recommended only in cases where the curve measures at least 40-50 degrees.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean that 15 degree scoliosis doesn't need to be treated at all. For one thing, some symptoms of scoliosis can occur no matter how slight your spinal curvature may be. Many people with so-called 'mild' scoliosis still experience:

  • Back pain
  • Stiffness
  • Noticeably reduced mobility/flexibility

If these symptoms persist, it may be necessary to treat them in order to minimise their impact on the patient's day-to-day life. Pain medication can help, and physical therapy can improve flexibility/mobility while also combating the source of any pain or stiffness.

15 degree scoliosis won't necessarily stay that way!

Another thing to consider is that scoliosis often progresses (i.e. gets worse) as time goes by. A 15-degree curve may gradually grow into a 20-degree curve, then 25, and so on until eventually the patient has to go in for surgery.

Scoliosis Intervention Stages

For this reason, preventative treatments are sometimes required in order to stop that progression from happening. Young scoliosis patients often wear a back brace until the body has finished growing to stop the condition progressing. And while surgery is not recommended in milder cases of scoliosis, treatments like our own ScolioGold programme can reduce the Cobb angle, sometimes past the 10-degree threshold to the point where the patient's condition is no longer classified as scoliosis at all. Click here for examples of this.

Would you like to find out more about our non-surgical scoliosis treatment courses? Contact Scoliosis SOS now to arrange an initial consultation.

"Traditionally, scoliosis has been considered to be a disease affecting bone, cartilage, or neuromuscular activities. We were surprised to find an immune response associated with idiopathic scoliosis."

Idiopathic scoliosis is a condition that affects people all over the world, yet the underlying cause is still unknown. Researchers have made great progress in recent years, however - we've explained previously on this blog that zebrafish can be very useful when researching scoliosis and other congenital defects that occur in humans, and scientists at The Hospital for Sick Children have been examining zebrafish to try to identify factors that contribute to the onset of idiopathic scoliosis.

While looking for abnormal genes or genetic pathways that could be responsible for idiopathic scoliosis, the researchers instead noticed that immune cells liked to inflammatory conditions had accumulated around the area where the spinal curvature occurred. Using genetic tools, they found that stimulating pro-inflammatory signals in the spines of zebrafish could induce idiopathic scoliosis.

Interestingly, the team were also able to demonstrate that blocking these signals using NAC (an over-the-counter supplement that has anti-inflammatory properties) reduced the severity of scoliosis in the zebrafish. If these findings can be applied successfully to humans, then these Toronto-based scientists may have discovered a treatment that is less invasive than some of the treatments currently available to people with scoliosis.

Scoliosis Research Results

Image source: advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/12/eaav1781

The research team are now planning to explore the genetic causes of idiopathic scoliosis in human patients and attempt to determine whether inflammatory signals like those found in the zebrafish can be identified and proven to accelerate the onset or progression of spinal curvature.

Read the Research Article >   How We Treat Scoliosis >

A curvature of the spine (such as scoliosis or hyperkyphosis) can affect anyone, regardless of their age, sex or general fitness. The effect that these conditions have on the patient's day-to-day life can vary massively between one case and the next, so there isn't one single treatment that's universally effective.

The best form of treatment for any given patient depends on how severe their spinal curve is, along with some other variables. If the angle of the curve progresses past the threshold of 40-50 degrees, surgery is often recommended; however, this certainly isn't the only method used to treat scoliosis and other curvatures of the spine.

Here is an overview of the main treatment options that are available for individuals with curved spines:

 

Bracing

If the patient is a child or teenager, a brace may be used to prevent the spinal curvature from progressing as the body grows. Braces commonly have to be worn for 23 hours a day, and can only be taken off to bathe/shower. The brace is worn until the patient has finished growing. Bracing does not treat the spinal curve as such; it is simply used to prevent the patient's condition from getting any worse. 

Back braces are usually made from rigid plastic, so they aren't very flexible (although some more comfortable designs have been introduced in recent years).

Further reading: What's it like wearing a brace?

 

Surgery

If the patient's spinal curve is severe enough, spinal fusion surgery is often recommended. This procedure is performed under general anaesthetic, and it involves anchoring a series of rods to the patient's spine using tiny hooks and screws. These rods reduce the angle of patient's spinal curve as well as serving as a splint to keep it in place. A bone graft is then applied to the spine and eventually fuses to it, preventing the spinal curve from progressing any further. The rods are only a temporary measure, holding the spine together until the fusion process has finished; however, these rods are not usually removed, as to do so would require another large, potentially risky surgical procedure. 

Spinal fusion surgery is usually followed by a lengthy recovery period, during which some pain, discomfort and a loss of mobility are to be expected.

Further reading: What to expect from surgery

 

Physical Therapy

Many people look to physical therapy as an alternative to spinal fusion surgery, and there is increasing evidence that exercise-based programmes can be very effective for treating curvatures of the spine. Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we use our own ScolioGold therapy programme to help patients who are seeking an effective, low-risk treatment method for their spinal condition. 

The ScolioGold method is a combination of non-surgical spinal techniques from around the world, specifically chosen to ensure that all aspects of each patient's condition are properly addressed. By using our own unique combination of methods, we're able to offer an unrivalled treatment success that is not available anywhere else.

To book an initial consultation, or to find out more about our treatment methods, please get in touch with the Scoliosis SOS Clinic today!

More Information: Curvatures of the Spine >