What is Scoliosis?

14th January 2020
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Scoliosis affects up to 10% of people and is a common condition involving a sideways curve in the spine. This can either be structural or functional.

Structural scoliosis occurs when there is a curve in the spine itself and unfortunately there is no clear cause to why this happens but usually develops at a young age. This type is more serious and permanent.

While functional scoliosis, is the appearance of a curve in the spine, but is actually due to an irregularity elsewhere, for example a leg length difference. This results from the body attempting to maintain symmetry and compensating for the underlying problem. The appearance of the curve often disappears when the patients lays downs and is often reversible.

Scoliosis can affect people off all ages, but teenagers account for 80% of cases. Most cases involve little or no pain, whereby the curve cannot be seen by the untrained eye. On the other hand, more severe cases involve substantial deformity and can be associated with other health conditions. Pain isn’t always the main symptom and can often go undiagnosed for many years, but in other cases can be quite debilitating

 Early signs of a scoliosis present include the appearance of abnormal posture, uneven musculature on either side of the spine, prominent shoulder blade, uneven shoulder or hip height and a tilted rib rage. Recognising the early signs of a scoliosis is vital for proper management as the earlier it is recognised, the easier it is to treat through manual therapy and exercise.

 Depending on the severity of the curve present, it was commonly treated by wearing a brace or through surgery. More recently, manual therapy and exercise has been seen to help manage the symptoms associated with mild to moderate cases of scoliosis, and help prevent the progression of symptoms.

 If you have been struggling with a bad back or think you might have an underlying scoliosis, it will be beneficial to come into the clinic for an assessment. Through this, altered movement patterns and biomechanics will be identified and the appropriate advice will be given on how best to manage it. This will include manual therapy using a range of techniques, aiming to improve the mobility within the whole spine and rib cage, which as a result will assist with breathing mechanics.

 This will be assisted by a specific stretching and strengthening plan to restore spinal mobility, muscle length and strength, and maintain core stability. With the aim to improve altered biomechanics and help maintain the benefits from treatment. It is unlikely that treatment with completely correct the scoliosis but will definitely be able to help manage and prevent progression of symptoms associated with it.

 A few things which can help with the management of a scoliosis include;

  • Focus on breathing mechanics and function – and attempting to breath from both lungs equally as this can be affected by a curve in the spine.
  • Awareness of your posture while seated and standing, as the forces may be distributed unevenly due to the spinal curvature which can results in altered weight bearing, especially when walking.
  • Regular exercise to help maintain good core and lower back stability.
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