Analysing what causes scoliosis

While scoliosis most commonly develops during adolescence, this debilitating condition can affect anyone at any time of life. Some people aren’t affected by scoliosis until they reach old age; others notice the symptoms far earlier. In some cases, the condition is actually present from birth (although this is quite rare).

The causes of scoliosis

In around 80% of cases, the exact cause of scoliosis is unclear. This is known as idiopathic scoliosis, which is by far the most common form of the condition. Idiopathic scoliosis is thought to occur due to genetic factors, but nobody knows for sure.

When scoliosis is not idiopathic, the cause may be one of the following:
  • Muscular dystrophy (also known as MD). This is a genetic condition that weakens the muscles over time. This gradual weakening can lead to – among other things – curvature of the spine. Learn more >

  • Cerebral palsy. This condition affects the patient’s movement and coordination, and can also cause irregular posture. Learn more >

  • Birth defects. As mentioned above, some people are born with scoliosis because their spines developed improperly in the womb. This is known as congenital scoliosis. Learn more >

  • Marfan syndrome. This is a hereditary disorder that affects the body’s connective tissues, which in turn can have an effect on the patient’s spine. Learn more >

  • Ageing. Getting older will naturally have an adverse effect on one’s body, and some previously healthy people are affected by scoliosis in their later years due to changes in the discs and joints that make up the spine. Learn more >
In the future, we may understand more about scoliosis (particularly idiopathic scoliosis), and this will hopefully help doctors to prevent some cases of scoliosis before they emerge. In the meantime, all we can do is treat the symptoms of scoliosis, such as postural deformities, decreased mobility, and chronic pain.

Surgical correction is the most common method for treating scoliosis, but many scoliotics find that they are able to overcome the symptoms of their condition through non-surgical, exercise-based physical therapy.

Click here to learn about non-invasive alternatives to scoliosis surgery; alternatively, please contact Scoliosis SOS if you wish to book an initial consultation with one of our scoliosis consultants.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we are committed to conducting research into our field on a constant basis. This research helps us to better understand scoliosis itself, and in turn, enables us to deliver the best level of treatment to those who suffer from it. To offer you some insight into the topics we have researched recently, here are a few short summaries outlining our aims and findings:

Back pain

Pain Research

The aim of this project was to determine whether or not an intensive 4-week scoliosis exercise programme could decrease patient pain in cases of idiopathic scoliosis, and to ascertain if it could then be maintained. Pain is one of the most common and most debilitating symptoms of the condition for both adults and adolescents, and we therefore wanted to examine whether or not a scoliosis-specific exercise programme would be able to significantly reduce pain.

35 patients took part in this study, and each one was asked to report their pain levels before the course, immediately after the course, and at a check-up session 6 months later. The results were very encouraging, as patients displayed significant reductions in reported pain, as well as displaying further improvements as they continued to use the home exercise programme thereafter.

Cobb angle research

Cobb Angle Research

This research was conducted to determine the impact of a 4-week scoliosis-specific exercise programme on the Cobb angle in subjects suffering from idiopathic scoliosis. The Cobb angle is the angle between the most tilted vertebral bodies above and below the apex of the spinal curve, and has been the standard by which to assess Scoliosis since 1948.

This study involved 11 patients, each of whom were given X-rays by an independent radiographer to compare the Cobb angle before and after treatment. This research displayed significant reductions in the Cobb angle for a range of patients with juvenile, adolescent and adult scoliosis, proving that scoliosis-specific physiotherapy is demonstrably capable of reducing the Cobb angle.

Body image

Body Image Research

For people suffering with scoliosis, body image is often a key motivation for seeking treatment. For this reason, we conducted a study into whether or not an intensive 4-week course of exercises would improve each patient’s body image; we also looked at whether improvements would be rated equally by therapists, a scoliotic rater, and the patients themselves.

82 patients with idiopathic scoliosis rated their own body image, and were also rated by two blinded physiotherapists and a scoliotic rater. Patients reported significant improvements in body image post-treatment, although there were variations between patients’ scores and those of the raters, demonstrating the importance of patient-rated body image in our treatment.

Click here for more detailed accounts of our scoliosis research, or contact us if you would like to find out more about the Scoliosis SOS Clinic and what we can do to help you.