Scoliosis is a condition where the spine can twist and curve to the side. It is often described as appearing like an ‘S’ or a ‘C’ shape when viewed from behind. It most typically affects the mid spine (thoracic) but can also occur in the lower back (lumbar).
Scoliosis is often very mild and totally pain free with people even being unaware and living totally normal, functional lives. However, within the minority of more advanced cases, they can cause pain and anxiety regarding physical appearance.
There are 4 different types of scoliosis:
The condition can occur in any age group, but commonly begins in adolescents – during growth phases. 80% of scoliosis cases have no known cause – a term known as ‘idiopathic’. However, there can be a correlation with family history.
Some neurological symptoms can also cause a scoliosis due to muscular abnormalities. ‘Structural scoliosis’ – means the curve is due to the structure of spine itself, and is generally permanent. It is also common for a scoliosis to develop in later life due to age related changes of the spine – this is called ‘degenerative scoliosis’, and can be more prevalent in people with decreased bone density, sometimes due to a condition called Osteoporosis.
An X-ray is typically used to determine the degree of a scoliosis.
As stated, scoliosis can be pain free. However, some cases may require treatment and many do improve with Physiotherapy. This can involve stretching, conditioning exercises of the muscles around the spine, and suitable manual therapy techniques can be deemed appropriate for shorter term symptom relief. It is important for symptomatic scoliosis patients to partake in regular exercise to maintain flexibility and strength in the area. Pilates can be effective.
Treatment for scoliosis can vary and is based on your age, the degree of the curve, and whether it’s considered likely to get worse with time. Back braces can be used in children/adolescents to help restrict the curvature developing. This technique is not effective once beyond the growth phase.
Very few people will need to have surgery on their spine.
Click here to read about Margaret’s story of keeping active with scoliosis.
Scoliosis Association UK – for help with living with scoliosis and support groups – https://www.sauk.org.uk/
NHS – Pilates for scoliosis https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/nhs-fitness-studio/scoliosis-pilates-exercise-video/
Scoliosis association UK – https://www.sauk.org.uk/