Tag: living with scoliosis

Is Scoliosis Classed As A Disability In The UK?

Scoliosis is an unusual condition since it can have a huge impact on someone’s life – or almost none at all. Many people with small Scoliosis cases never experience any significant disruption, whereas those with severe cures may even find they have trouble getting around. Scoliosis also sits in an unusual category, since it’s still viewed as a condition which is “permanent” even though today it’s often possible to correct it. With this in mind, does Scoliosis count as a disability?


Is Scoliosis a Disaiblity?

In the UK, disabilities tend to be defined not by the condition themselves, but more by the way they impact a person’s life – therefore, whether scoliosis is considered a disability in the UK depends on the severity of the condition and its impact on the person’s daily life.

Under the Equality Act 2010, scoliosis is considered a disability if it has a substantial, long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to perform normal day-to-day activities. Long-term means that the condition has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least 12 months. This is already complex since people under treatment for Scoliosis will (hopefully) eventually overcome the condition, but how long this will take is very hard to say!

Because of the way that disabilities are assessed in the UK, it is therefore unlikely that Scoliosis will be counted as a disability on its own – you’ll need to prove that it makes living your life difficult.


Protection from discrimination

Slightly clearer is the position visa-vis The Equality Act 2010 – this act provides legal protection against discrimination in employment, education, housing, and other areas. In most cases, a scoliosis diagnosis would be an item which an employer, for example, would need to take into account as an aspect of ensuring equality. This means that employers, schools, and service providers are required to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of people with scoliosis.

Reasonable adjustments may include making physical adjustments to the workplace or school environment, such as providing ergonomic chairs or desks, allowing for breaks or adjustments to working hours, or providing assistive technology or devices.


Does Scoliosis qualify me for benefits?

People with scoliosis may be eligible for disability benefits in the UK, but only if the condition makes it difficult for them to live their lives normally. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) provides disability benefits to people who have a health condition or disability that affects their ability to work. The benefits include Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which helps with the extra costs of living with a long-term health condition or disability, and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which provides financial support for people who are unable to work due to their health condition or disability.


To be eligible for disability benefits, the person with scoliosis must show that their condition has a significant impact on their ability to work or perform day-to-day activities. The DWP uses a set of criteria to assess the severity of the condition and its impact on the person’s life. If the person meets the criteria, they may be eligible for disability benefits. As you may know, the bar for said benefits is often very high, so sadly it’s unlikely that you’ll be eligible unless your Scoliosis has caused significant mobility issues.


Is Scoliosis a disability?

Every scoliosis case is different, and the degree to which it impacts your life will be the biggest factor in deciding if it’s considered a disability and if you can receive benefits or support in the UK. In most cases, having Scoliosis alone won’t be enough to qualify you.

That being said, Under the Equality Act 2010, people with scoliosis are protected from discrimination, and employers, schools, and service providers are required to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate their needs.


Can people live a normal life with Scoliosis?

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:

  1. Congenital scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is caused by spinal abnormalities that occur during fetal development.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. Uneven shoulders or hips: A visible curve in the spine can cause one shoulder or hip to be higher than the other.
  2. Back pain: Scoliosis can cause back pain
  3. Difficulty breathing: Severe scoliosis can compress the lungs and reduce lung capacity, making it difficult to breathe.
  4. Fatigue: Scoliosis can cause fatigue due to the strain on the back muscles and lopsided posture requires more energy to keep upright.
  5. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Wear proper footwear – Wearing shoes with good support and cushioning can help reduce the strain on the back muscles and improve balance and stability.
  4. 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.
  5. Find a chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist who can help the body to feel and move better.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!



5 Celebrity Scoliosis Stories

While the main focus of our blog is on treating, preventing and correcting Scoliosis, it’s always worth taking a moment to acknowledge the great things that many people with scoliosis have done. Scoliosis no matter how you opt to treat it (or not) does not have to ruin a life – and indeed, for some people, it can even give them a unique kind of strength. This week we’re taking a look at 5 interesting and diverse people who have or have had scoliosis, and what it means to them.

Please note that the UK Scoliosis clinic does not endorse (or cities) any of the views, nor the treatments (or lack of) discussed here.


1 – Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt is a Jamaican superstar sprinter and a five-time World and three-time Olympic gold medallist. He is the world record and Olympic record holder in the 100 meters, the 200 meters and the 4×100 meters relay – in short, he’s pretty good at what he does.

He is the reigning Olympic champion in these three events and is one of only seven athletes to win world championships at the youth, junior, and senior-level of an athletic event. He is also famously known as the ‘World’s Fastest Man’, after the 2012 London Summer Olympics where he won the 100 meters gold medal with a time of 9.63 seconds, setting a new Olympic record for that distance.

Bolt also suffers from scoliosis – which is believed to have been a factor in a serious injury that led to him cutting short his season in 2010. Of the condition, bolt says:

 “Scoliosis is not as serious as it sounds but for me, as a track athlete, it can be serious; I work really hard to keep it away but it’s still there.”

Bolt reportedly receives treatment from a homoeopathic German sports doctor a couple of times a year. He also has a masseuse who never leaves the sprinter’s side, travelling all over the world with him, warming him up before and after training and at every race  – although to be fair, this isn’t uncommon for athletes of his calibre! [1]


2 – Kurt Cobain

Music legend and cult figure Kurt Cobain suffered from Scoliosis – like many he experienced pain from the condition, but sadly this was long before we understood the link to pain, and well before effective non-surgical treatments were widely available.

Cobain’s story is interesting because, according to an interview with MTV – pain from the scoliosis actually became an important influence for him. He said:

    “… I have scoliosis. I had minor scoliosis in junior high, and since I’ve been playing guitar ever since, the weight of the guitar has made my back grow in this curvature. So when I stand, everything is sideways. It’s weird. ”


    “I go to a chiropractor every once in a while….. [scoliosis] gives me a back pain all the time. That really adds to the pain in our music. It really does. I’m kind of grateful for it.” [2]


3 – General Douglas MacArthur

Well known to history buffs and our friends in the US, General Douglas MacArthur was a critical figuring during the battle for the Pacific during WWII who served as supreme commander for the southwest pacific area and won the medal of honour for his defence of the Philippines.

Did you know, however, that this great military mind almost missed out on entrance to West Point – the prestigious officer school? He had the grades to qualify for entrance to West Point, but when he went for his preliminary physical examination, he received shocking news. The doctor informed MacArthur that he had curvature of the spine and was medically unfit to enter West Point.

McArthur, not being one to give up easily, consulted with Dr. Franz Pfister, a well-respected surgeon in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Dr. Pfister told Douglas there was a possibility he could cure his spinal problem, as long as Douglas was prepared to do special scoliosis exercises everyday and follow all of his instructions for one year. Douglas jumped at the opportunity and made plans to move to Milwaukee, where he worked at his prescribed exercises every day.

After one year, he attempted the physical examination again – the doctor who conducted the exam saw that while he made great improvement – but his spine still wasn’t straight enough to pass. Undeterred, he continued on with the scoliosis specific exercises until in May of 1899 he finally passed his physical exam into West Point.[3]


4- Liza Minnelli

Liza May Minnelli was born in Hollywood, California. She is an American actress, singer and Broadway performer – you’ve probably seen her in something! Liza is the daughter of Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minnelli. Though her first appearances were with her superstar mother, Liza has established a substantial career as a performer. She is among the few entertainers who have won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award. She has also received two Golden Globes, a Grammy Living Legend award and induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame and numerous other awards and honours.

It has been speculated that Judy Garland herself may have had scoliosis, but it’s certain that Liza Minnelli has scoliosis. She has mentioned in interviews that her scoliosis forced her to move on stage in ways that didn’t affect her breathing or cause her pain.

In recent years, Liza has made appearances in various films and in television, perhaps most notable was her role on the TV comedy Arrested Development. Over the years, Liza has served and supported various charities and causes.


Of her condition, Minnelli says “I’ve got two false hips, a wired-up knee, scoliosis, which I’ve always had, and three crushed disks, but I feel great. I dance every day.”[4]


5 – King Tutankhamun

Perhaps the most famous figure from ancient history, King Tutankhamun may well have had Scoliosis. What’s more interesting, evidence also showed that one of Tut’s children (who was buried with him, having died in infancy) may have also had Scoliosis. This provides some ancient evidence for the purported genetic aetiology of scoliosis.

A 2010 article by the Journal of the American Medical Association outlined a study of the Egyptian king that estimates his death at around 17-19 years of age. Based on tests conducted on the remains of Tut, it is believed he died at such a young age of conditions including malaria and complications from a leg fracture.

The researcher’s CAT scanned King Tut’s mummy and also discovered he had “severe kyphoscoliosis an abnormal curvature of the spine in both coronal and sagittal planes”. They also found that he had oligodactyly, a toe malformation. They speculated that the condition would have made his left foot swell and would have caused excruciating pain when he walked[5].

Ancient drawings depict Tut shooting arrows sitting in a chariot, which researchers say is unusual. 130 walking sticks were found in Tut’s tomb. They were originally thought to merely represent power but now are thought to be ancient forms of crutches or canes. It is believed that Tut may have used them because he had difficulty walking and standing. Paintings, like the one below, found in Tut’s tomb show him leaning on such canes/crutches with his legs crossed awkwardly underneath him.

[1] https://usainbolt.com/

[2] http://www.mtv.com/news/1572103/kurt-cobain-about-a-son-from-beyond-by-kurt-loder/

[3] Douglas MacArthur: What Greater Honor. Pages 25-33

[4] https://www.timeout.com/newyork/film/that-70s-show

[5] Zahi Hawass, PhD; Yehia Z. Gad, MD; Somaia Ismail, PhD; et al, Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun’s Family,  JAMA. 2010;303(7):638-647. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.121