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 >

S-Curve vs C-Curve Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a condition where the spine rotates and curves to an abnormal degree. A spine afflicted by scoliosis usually looks like a letter 'C' (or a reverse letter 'C' depending on the direction of the curve), but some patients have two curves, resulting in an S-shaped spine.

Treatment methods sometimes differ slightly for S curves versus C curves.

What is C-Curve Scoliosis?

C-curve scoliosis is when the curvature bends in one direction, resulting in a C-shaped spinal curve. This type of scoliosis can manifest itself in a number of different ways:

  • Lumbar Curve
    This type of curvature occurs in the lower (lumbar) back.

  • Thoracolumbar Curve
    This type of C curve begins in the upper back and ends in the lower back.

  • Thoracic Curve
    This type of C-curve scoliosis bend occurs in the upper (thoracic) back.

Treating C-Curve Scoliosis

C-curve scoliosis, where the spine bends in just one direction, is more common than S-curve scoliosis. C-curve scoliosis can be treated through a variety of different methods, including:

  • Bracing
    Bracing is a commonly-used scoliosis treatment method in young patients who are still growing. This method can halt the progression of the curvature and stabilise it until further action can be taken once the patient reaches adulthood. Soft and hard braces can be used to treat C-curve scoliosis.

  • Physiotherapy
    Physiotherapy is a popular C-curve scoliosis treatment method, especially when offered as an alternative to surgery (see below). Using exercise-based techniques like the Schroth method, physical therapists can help to reduce spinal curvature while boosting the patient's overall quality of life.

  • Surgery
    Spinal fusion surgery is often used to address severe curvatures. If the curvature is so severe that it risks causing respiratory and cardiovascular issues, surgery may be suggested by a medical professional.

What is S-Curve Scoliosis?

S-curve scoliosis is when the spine contains two curves, one in the upper and one in the lower back. When these curves go in opposite directions, they make the spine look similar to a letter 'S'. This type of scoliosis is less common than C-curve scoliosis, but it isn't necessarily accompanied by more severe symptoms.

An S curve is also known as a double major curve as it involves both a thoracic (upper back) curve and a lumbar (lower back) curve. As the curves tend to balance one another out at times, this type of scoliosis can often be harder to spot at first.

Treating S-Curve Scoliosis

As with C-curve scoliosis, S-curve scoliosis can be treated in a variety of ways:

  • Bracing
    Bracing can also be used for S-curve scoliosis to help halt the progression of the curvature. However, different types of braces may be needed to treat a severe S-shaped curve. A specialist brace such as the Gensingen brace may be needed, as these are individually made for each patient.

  • Surgery

    In the most severe cases, surgery may be recommended to help halt and rectify the spinal curvature(s). However, this is typically only recommended when the patient's scoliosis is threatening to cause other health issues.

  • Physiotherapy
    Physiotherapy can also be used to treat S-curve scoliosis through a variety of exercises, stretches, and massages. This method is preferred amongst many patients, especially those suffering from a mild to moderate spinal curvature. Physiotherapy is a great method for improving the patient's curvature(s) without the need for an operation and long recovery times. 

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we have been treating patients with C- and S-curve scoliosis for over 12 years. Our 4-week long ScolioGold course provides a tailored treatment regime to help improve the degree of your curvature. Through a series of exercises, stretches and massages, we are able to help improve the degree of C- and S-shaped scoliosis and improve your quality of life. Click here to see the fantastic results we're capable of achieving.

To book an initial consultation with Scoliosis SOS, please get in touch today.

Lumbar Scoliosis Treatment

Scoliosis can occur in any part of the spine, and different names are used to describe curves in different locations. If scoliosis specifically affects the upper spine, this is called thoracic scoliosis; if it affects the lower part of the spine, it is called lumbar scoliosis.

In today's blog post, we're specifically going to talk about lumbar scoliosis and how it can be treated.

About lumbar scoliosis

Lumbar scoliosis is often idiopathic, but it can also be linked to neuromuscular conditions. Some people are even born with lumbar scoliosis (see congenital scoliosis).

This type of scoliosis is characterised by the appearance of a C-shaped (or reverse C-shaped) curve in the lower section of the patient's spine. In extreme cases, lumbar scoliosis can materialise in combination with thoracic scoliosis to form an S-shaped (or reverse S-shaped) curve with the thoracic curve going in one direction, and the lumbar curve going in the opposite direction. 

Visual symptoms of lumbar scoliosis include:

  • Uneven waist
  • Hips, shoulders and/or rib cage different heights
  • Body leaning to one side

How can lumbar scoliosis be treated?

The best treatment for lumbar scoliosis depends on a number of factors, from the age and overall health of the patient to the severity of the spinal curve. If the patient is experiencing any pain or inflammation, the doctor may prescribe ibuprofen or another type of pain relief medication to reduce this discomfort. In other cases, the doctor may recommend that you undergo a course of corticosteroid injections in the spine to reduce inflammation; these injections are performed under an X-ray, but the patient can receive this treatment no more than 4 times in a 6-12 month period.

In cases where the curve is progressing (continuing to worsen) and there is a risk that it will impact the general health and wellbeing of the patient, it may be recommended that the patient undergoes spinal fusion - a surgical procedure that involves the insertion of rods and screws into the spine. Like most surgical procedures, there are a few side effects and risks associated with this treatment method, and this does put some patients off.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we offer a non-surgical treatment programme that consists of a combination of spinal exercises and techniques from around the world, ensuring that all aspects of the patient's condition are treated. We call this the ScolioGold method.

If you or a loved one suffer from any form of scoliosis, please contact Scoliosis SOS today to arrange an initial consultation or simply find out more about our treatment courses.

Functional vs Structural Scoliosis

Broadly speaking, all cases of scoliosis can be sorted into two different categories: functional scoliosis and structural scoliosis. Determining which type of scoliosis a patient is actually suffering from helps to ensure that an appropriate course of treatment is selected.

In a nutshell, the difference between functional and structural scoliosis is as follows:

  • Structural scoliosis is when the patient's spine actually has a physical curve.

  • Functional scoliosis is when the spine appears to be curved, but the apparent curvature is actually the result of an irregularity elsewhere in the body (e.g. different leg lengths).

Read on to learn more about the specific differences between functional scoliosis and structural scoliosis.

Structural Scoliosis

Structural scoliosis is when there is an actual 'structural' curve in the spine, which can progress over time if not treated correctly. There is no clear underlying cause for most cases of structural scoliosis, although it can be caused by nerve or muscle disorders (such as cerebral palsy), birth disorders (such as spina bifida), or an injury or tumour. 

How to treat structural scoliosis

The way in which structural scoliosis should be treated is dependent on the individual's circumstances, with both the cause and the severity of the curve being taken into account. For more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to stop the condition from progressing.

Non-surgical treatment options are available, too. We at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic use an exercise-based programme that has proven extremely effective. The ScolioGold method uses a number of different non-surgical techniques that are tailored to each individual case. To see how effective it has been, view our patient results here.

Functional Scoliosis

Functional scoliosis is when the patient appears to have a curve in their spine but it is actually caused by another condition, such as a difference in leg length or a muscle spasm. This happens because the body naturally tries to maintain symmetry - the spinal curve is the body's way of compensating for the underlying problem.

How to treat functional scoliosis

As the spine itself isn't curved in cases of functional scoliosis, the usual scoliosis treatments don't necessarily apply here. However, certain stretches and exercises may be able to relieve the pain that can arise from this condition.

In general, the best way to treat functional scoliosis is to look at what is actually causing the curve. We recently wrote a blog post on how leg length and scoliosis affect one another - read it here. One of the best methods to combat the problems that leg length discrepancy (LLD) can cause is to wear appropriate orthotics and/or insoles that compensate for the length difference, taking pressure off the spine.

If you have any further questions about the difference between functional and structural scoliosis, we would be more than happy to talk to you. Feel free to contact our scoliosis specialists today.

De Novo Scoliosis

As we explained in our blog on the subject, there are two forms of adult degenerative scoliosis. Today, we're going to take a closer look at the condition known as de novo scoliosis.

What is de novo scoliosis?

De novo scoliosis is a sideways spinal curve that appears in adulthood. The difference between de novo scoliosis and degenerative scoliosis is that de novo scoliosis affects patients who have never had scoliosis in the past.

'De novo' means 'new', and this name refers to the fact that the condition occurs later in life, during the patient's adulthood rather than their adolescence. It is uncommon for de novo scoliosis to arise before the age of 40-50.

Causes of de novo scoliosis

As bones get weaker and the ligaments and discs in the spine become worn due to age-related changes, the spine may begin to curve.

In most cases, de novo scoliosis is caused by the ageing of the facet joints and discs in the lower (lumbar) spine, leading to the vertebrae slipping out of place and the spine losing its shape. However, a number of other conditions - including spinal canal stenosis, compression fractures, and osteoporosis - have been known to contribute to the occurrence of de novo scoliosis.

Diagnosing de novo scoliosis

A physical examination and X-ray scan / imaging techniques are required to diagnose de novo scoliosis.

Common symptoms include:

  • Muscle fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Feelings of stiffness, numbness and weakness in the back and legs

Posture may also be affected.

In many cases, de novo scoliosis is not properly diagnosed, especially when it does not cause a significant amount of pain. A thorough inspection of the patient's medical history helps to determine whether any underlying issues have contributed to its development.

De novo scoliosis treatment

The best treatment for this condition can depend on the nature of the condition and the symptoms experienced by the patient, with both non-surgical and surgical interventions available.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we use our own physiotherapy programme called ScolioGold to treat scoliosis sufferers of all ages. Physical therapy can improve the patient's mobility, boost strength and correct abnormal posture, and ScolioGold therapy combines a variety of proven non-surgical techniques to achieve noticeable, lasting results.

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