Scoliosis is a condition that affects the spine’s shape, causing it to twist and bend sideways. It affects approximately 2-3% of the adolescent population, and as much as 30% by the time we reach 60. While scoliosis can be a debilitating condition that affects a patient’s quality of life, it is possible to live a normal lifestyle with scoliosis.
Causes of Scoliosis
Scoliosis can have different causes, including genetic factors, congenital disabilities, and neuromuscular conditions. In some cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown, and it’s referred to as idiopathic scoliosis. Different forms of Scoliosis include:
- Congenital scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is caused by spinal abnormalities that occur during fetal development.
- Neuromuscular scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is caused by conditions that affect the muscles and nerves that control the spine, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or spinal muscular atrophy.
- Degenerative scoliosis: This type of scoliosis occurs in older adults due to wear and tear on the spinal discs, causing them to weaken and collapse.
- Idiopathic scoliosis: This is the most common type of scoliosis, and it occurs in adolescents aged 10-18 years old. The cause of idiopathic scoliosis is unknown, but it’s believed to be genetic.
Symptoms of Scoliosis
The symptoms of scoliosis vary depending on the severity of the curvature. The main symptom is of course the curvature of the spine – although this isn’t typically what most people think of as it relates to quality of life. In fact, mild scoliosis may not cause any noticeable symptoms, while severe scoliosis can cause pain, discomfort, and breathing difficulties. Symptoms, depending on curve severity, can include:
- Uneven shoulders or hips: A visible curve in the spine can cause one shoulder or hip to be higher than the other.
- Back pain: Scoliosis can cause back pain
- Difficulty breathing: Severe scoliosis can compress the lungs and reduce lung capacity, making it difficult to breathe.
- Fatigue: Scoliosis can cause fatigue due to the strain on the back muscles and lopsided posture requires more energy to keep upright.
- Reduced mobility: In severe cases, scoliosis can limit a patient’s mobility and ability to perform daily activities.
Can Patients Live a Normal Lifestyle with Scoliosis?
The good news is that patients with scoliosis can live a normal lifestyle with the right treatment and management. Ideally, Scoliosis will be detected early on – giving the best possible treatment chances at any age. For children diagnosed with Scoliosis, a proactive treatment program involving exercise-based therapy and bracing can often allow them to reach adulthood with no more issues from Scoliosis than the rest of the general population. For those who develop Scoliosis in adulthood, or have a childhood case which is not detected, it’s not usually possible to reduce the curve – but improving torso appearance, stopping progression and managing any associated symptoms is certainly possible.
Those living with Scoliosis can also make lifestyle choices which help to make living with Scoliosis easier – actually, most of these points are good advice for anyone! You should:
- Exercise – Regular exercise can help strengthen the back muscles and improve mobility. Low-impact exercises such as swimming, yoga, pilates and walking can be beneficial for patients with scoliosis.
- Maintain a healthy weight – Having a low Body Mass Index (BMI) or being underweight is linked with a increased risk of scoliosis due to softening of bones and weakening of muscles and ligaments. While excess weight can put a strain on the back muscles, exacerbating scoliosis symptoms. Maintaining a healthy weight can help to strengthen the spine and alleviate the stress on the back muscles and improve overall health.
- Wear proper footwear – Wearing shoes with good support and cushioning can help reduce the strain on the back muscles and improve balance and stability.
- Seek out scoliosis specific physical therapy – scoliosis specific physiotherapy such as Schroth, SEAS & Side shift methods, can help patients with scoliosis learn exercises to strengthen the back muscles and improve posture.
- Find a chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist who can help the body to feel and move better.
- Practice good posture – Maintaing more upright posture can help reduce the constant strain on the back muscles and ligaments reducing the likelihood of the scoliosis worsening slowly over time.
- Manage pain – Patients with scoliosis may experience back pain, and it’s important to manage the pain to improve quality of life. While over-the-counter pain relievers may be required at times, it is better in the longer term to use hot or cold therapy, acupuncture or massage to manage symptoms.
- Periodic check-ups – Patients with scoliosis should attend check-ups over the years with their healthcare provider to monitor the condition for progression and adjust the treatment plan as necessary.
Need help with Scoliosis?
If you’re living with Scoliosis or have recently been diagnosed, don’t wait – get in touch with the UK Scoliosis Clinic today and let our expert staff guide help you live your best life with Scoliosis!