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.
Your Physiotherapist at Pure will ask you to talk in detail about the history and nature of your symptoms so they can understand how it is affecting you and can work with you to make individualised goals. They will also carry out a physical assessment to measure your level of function and range of motion. You will most likely already have a diagnosis however in cases where there has been no previous investigation, an X-ray may be recommended to determine the degree of a scoliosis however this is only usually necessary if your function is limited and your symptoms are severe. Having an accurate diagnosis will ensure the most appropriate management in put in place quickly to facilitate optimal outcomes.
Your Physiotherapist will explain your condition in a way that you understand so you are able to help manage your symptoms. You will be given advice on how you can remain physically active which is essential in symptomatic scoliosis patients to maintain flexibility and strength in the area. Your Physiotherapist may recommend ways in which you can do any painful activities in different ways to help you remain functional.
As stated, scoliosis can be pain free. However, some cases may require treatment and many do improve with Physiotherapy. This can involve stretching and conditioning exercises of the muscles around the spine. Your Physio will design a bespoke and progressive exercise plan, based on your goals to help you build strength and maintain mobility. With regular re-assessment, your clinician will make adjusts to your exercises so that you can achieve the goals set out. You Physiotherapist may also use suitable manual therapy techniques for shorter term symptom relief.
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/