Tag: scoliosis awareness 2019

A Scoliosis Journey: Week 2

Last week we began to explore the case of Patient X – a scoliosis patient who, after successful treatment with a ScoliBrace, avoided the need for corrective surgery and now lives scoliosis free.  This week, we learn about her treatment prescription. If you missed week one, we suggest reading it here first.


3. The best treatment?

Having confirmed a scoliosis case and with that case being below the surgical threshold, it was possible to move forward with a non-surgical approach for patient x – but which is the best treatment methodology on offer?

In dealing with any scoliosis case, there are at least three elements to treatment which need to be considered – firstly, the Cobb angle (that is to say, the angle of the scoliotic curvature) needs to be reduced. Secondly the angle of trunk rotation (rib hump) and thirdly, muscular imbalances which have developed alongside the scoliosis, need to be addressed and balanced.

In terms of Cobb angle reduction, Scoliosis braces are the most effective non-surgical approach.[1] There are many different kinds of scoliosis brace and many work slightly differently. Broadly speaking braces can be classified as either active correction braces (which aim to reduce scoliosis by guiding the spine back to correct posture) and passive braces (which aim to prevent scoliosis from developing any further by holding the spine in its current position). Passive braces which are typically provided by hospitals, once the only option available, obviously do nothing to reduce cobb angle – so bracing with an active correction brace is the recommended approach.

The angle of trunk rotation or the “rib hump” is best addressed by a active scoliosis brace such as Scolibrace which addresses the scoliosis in a 3-dimensional manner, helping to de-rotate the spine to reduce rib hump progression, whilst preserving the spines natural curves in the low and mid-back.

The best approach to correcting the muscular and postural imbalances associated with scoliosis are specialised exercise methodologies which have been designed for scoliosis treatment. There are two main approaches to consider. The first is SEAS or the “Scientific Exercise Approach to Scoliosis”. SEAS consists of an individualised exercise program adapted for the purpose of treating an individual’s scoliosis. Different exercises are used to correct different types and elements of scoliosis, so by combining them in the correct way, an ideal exercise plan can be produced.

SEAS treatment is often used as a stand-alone approach when treating smaller curves and as a compliment to bracing with large curves and where there is a significant risk of progression.

The other main exercised based method, Schroth therapy, is a well-established and easy to use treatment methodology which some experts consider to be the best exercise-based approach for treating Idiopathic Scoliosis.[2]  As an independent treatment, some studies have shown a reduction of Cobb angle of 10-15 degrees over the course of a year[3] – however, Schroth therapy combines particularly well with bracing. When Schroth is combined with bracing superior results can often be achieved more quickly than either approach alone.[4]

Patient x’s scoliosis, being 33 degrees cobb, was already beyond the point where exercise alone would have been an ideal treatment. As the patient was still growing and the curve was already greater than 30 degrees, she was also considered a high risk for her scoliosis to worsen. While this specific combination of factors meant that hers was a high-risk case overall, she was an ideal candidate for correction with a highly advanced scoliosis brace – the ScoliBrace. (This is the brace we offer at the UK Scoliosis Clinic)

In this case, scoliosis specific rehabilitation exercises and use of a scoliosis orthotic device, a Scolibrace, were therefore recommended.


4. Treatment with ScoliBrace

ScoliBrace, unlike many braces, is a totally customised, 3D designed, rigid active correction brace. ScoliBrace isn’t just customised for your scoliosis case, you can also choose a colour or pattern which suits your style – or opt for something which matches your skin tone to blend in well.

A ScoliBrace is not like most braces which use 3 point pressure. It uses a 3D inverse correction of the spine ie it shifts the spine into the opposite direction by moving the spine towards the correct position

For Patient X, the scoliosis brace was initially to be worn full-time. This is 23 hours per day with up to a maximum of 4 hours out of the brace if the patient was actively participating in sports during those out of brace hours. Brace wear was started at 2 hours on the first day, followed by adding another 2 hours every subsequent day until the required full-time hours were attained. Time in brace is often adjusted throughout scoliosis treatment period -but is generally high at the start in order to arrest the curve development and begin to reduce it as soon as possible.

Patient X was also given a program of scoliosis specific exercises, which were initially taught in the clinic as twice a week for 3 weeks, followed by once per month. The patient was required to complete the exercises each day out of the brace, but this was easy to do at home and it was included as brace time wear.  A  ScoliRoll (scoliosis orthotic device) was also used daily for 20 minutes to stretch the spine into the opposite direction of the curve, to help improve the spines mobility back to a normal position.

Next week, we’ll focus on Patient X’s progress with ScoliBrace!



[1] Yu Zheng, MD PhD et al. Whether orthotic management and exercise are equally effective to the patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis in Mainland China? – A randomized controlled trial study SPINE: An International Journal for the study of the spine (2018) [Publish Ahead of Print]

[2] Steffan K, Physical therapy for idiopathic scoliosis,  Der Orthopäde, 44: 852-858; (2015)

[3] Kuru T, et al. The efficacy of three-dimensional Schroth  exercises  in   adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: A randomised controlled clinical trial, Clinical  Rehabilitation,  30(108); (2015)

[4] Marinela, Rață;Bogdan, Antohe, Efficiency  of the Schroth and Vojta Therapies in Adolescents with Idiopathic Scoliosis. Gymnasium, Scientific Journal of Education, Sports, and Health Vol. XVIII, Issue 1/2017

A Scoliosis Journey: Week 1

Welcome to this special series of articles from the UK scoliosis clinic. This month is scoliosis awareness month, and throughout June we will be covering a representational example of a scoliosis case, all the way from discovery to diagnosis, treatment to conclusion.  While this series necessarily presents a generalised view of scoliosis treatment as a whole, we hope it will provide a good overview of the treatment process, which will be similar for most cases.

It is scoliosis? It’s not always easy to tell without an x-ray


1 . Is that scoliosis?

Most people have never heard of scoliosis, although it’s much more common than you might think. Scoliosis affects about 3 or 4 per cent of children (about one in each class at school) and as many as 40% of the over 60s. Scoliosis is a condition of the spine which causes it to curve away from its natural (fairly) straight alignment when viewed from behind. When viewed from the side the spine does curve gently forwards and backwards – these curves are known as Kyphosis, and Lordosis, and are a normal and important part of the way your spine works. A small bend in the spine, less than 10 degrees is considered normal and not a cause for concern – but in cases which need treatment, curves can often exceed as much as 50 degrees, 5 times that “normal” figure.

While this is all great information, we can’t usually see our spines or our children’s spines – and unless you’ve had cause to have a chest x-ray or similar taken its unlikely that you ever would have, so how can we recognise scoliosis in the first place?

In many countries around the world, Scoliosis is a condition for which there is a national screening program. In the same way that many of our children receive immunisations through their school, if you happen to be born in the right country, you’ll also get a Scoliosis screening. Screening allows scoliosis to be spotted very early and therefore treated most effectively. In the UK however, there is no such program, so here most scoliosis cases are spotted by family members, friends, or (often in the case of teenagers) by the sufferer themselves.

Take our case here, patient X. Patient X is a 16-year-old female, who initially complained about what appeared to be poor posture. The ‘x’s marked on her back show exactly where each of her vertebrate is, but you can imagine that without these markings, it simply looks as if she is standing awkwardly, or, like many teenagers, has awful posture! As you can see from the X-ray on the right, however, this is, in fact, a fairly well-advanced scoliosis case.


So how do we spot scoliosis? The main points to ask yourself are –

  • Are the shoulder’s level or uneven?
  • Is the waist even on each side? Or is one side straighter and the other more rounded or prominent?
  • Does one side look like it’s folded down or have a large skin crease?
  • Are the shoulder blades level? Does one stick out more than the other?
  • With straight legs, bending forward from the waist and with the hands between the knees is one side of the rib cage higher than the other, or is the lower back more prominent than the other, if yes, this indicates scoliosis.


It wasn’t a scoliosis screening which highlighted this example – In-Patient X’s case, it was this poor posture, and some mild back pain which brought her in for a scoliosis screening – importantly, she also participated in ballet (research shows that ballet dancers have a higher incidence of scoliosis) and had a family history of scoliosis. While these facts probably didn’t seem relevant to her at the time, they sounded all too common to the scoliosis professionals. According to the patients’ mum, she had no major issues growing up and all major growth milestones passed without incident – but for the back pain and the fact that she noticed the poor posture, this case would have continued to progress. It’s hard to say when the case actually began, but it’s entirely possible it had been developing for several years, and early screening could have detected this.


2. So, its Scoliosis.

A scoliometer, which helps us to measure and understand a Scoliosis case

Thankfully, patient X was seen at a scoliosis clinic within just weeks of her initial diagnosis. A simple scoliosis screening, coupled with a measurement from a device known as a scoliometer revealed the presence of all the warning signs, and at her follow up appointment the above x-ray confirmed the presence of scoliosis.

But when we say “scoliosis” – what do we really mean? This is a complex question since each and every scoliosis case is different and occurs in 3D. While we typically define scoliosis as a curvature of the spine when viewed from the rear, the condition is always more complex than this explanation makes it sound. In addition to the curvature, the vertebra will usually be rotated to some extent and may also be subject to damage or malformations as a result, or even as a cause of the Scoliosis. Scoliosis cases can curve in different directions and the vertebra which is most displaced from the centreline will also vary. Some scoliosis cases consist of a single curve, whereas others consist of a major curve and an opposite “compensatory” or secondary curve.  Scoliotic curves can also develop in different regions of the spine, or more than one region.

Therefore, receiving the diagnosis of “scoliosis” is only the first step. Using a variety of sophisticated imaging technologies, it was possible to classify and understand patient x’s scoliosis – hers was a 33 degree, left thoracolumbar scoliosis with significant rotation of the vertebra in the lumbar spine, the condition was causing poor posture and had also become painful. There’s no question that this is a complex diagnosis and one which only 10 years ago would almost certainly have ended in surgery, but thanks to the advanced research in the field of scoliosis correction, it’s the kind of case that today we can successfully treat non-surgically.

What’s critical to appreciate, however, is the complexity of this and the vast majority of scoliosis cases. Patient X (as we will see in coming segments) was treated with great success, without surgery, and no longer suffers from scoliosis – but this result has been almost entirely attributable to the highly individualised, customised treatment plan she received. More about that, next week.