Scoliosis FAQ: Addressing Pain from Scoliosis and More
Whether you have been diagnosed with scoliosis yourself, or you are a parent that has a child diagnosed with scoliosis, you probably have some questions- and rightfully so. Scoliosis can seem like a daunting diagnosis at first glance. Thankfully, with the right understanding you can feel less anxious and better prepared for what the future might bring. While scoliosis is a long term diagnosis, there is no reason that it can’t be well managed to prevent or reduce symptoms like pain from scoliosis.
Today, we will dive into some of the most frequently asked questions that scoliosis patients and parents alike have (whether it’s child scoliosis or adult scoliosis). Let’s get started!
Common First Questions
There are a lot of questions and concerns that may cross your mind when you first get a scoliosis diagnosis. Let’s review.
What type of scoliosis do I have?
There are three types of scoliosis. The primary type is idiopathic scoliosis. It affects as much as 90% of people diagnosed with scoliosis and is most often diagnosed in childhood or adolescence. The cause is largely unknown, with no underlying cause. The only potential link that has been discovered is possibly a genetic predisposition. Less common types of scoliosis include congenital scoliosis and neuromuscular scoliosis. Congenital scoliosis is present at birth due to malformation of the spine. Neuromuscular scoliosis is caused by changes in neural or muscular health that results in underlying imbalances in muscle tension (either from flaccidity or spasticity), common with spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy.
How concerned should I be about my scoliosis diagnosis?
Thankfully, most cases of scoliosis are mild to moderate and can be well managed with proper care and foresight. Life with scoliosis doesn’t need to be restricted and you can live the life you want with a high quality of life. Even activities, such as sports, aren’t necessarily off the table if you wish to pursue them. Only in extremely rare cases does a curvature become severe enough that it affects organ health and limits daily activity.
Other frequent concerns about scoliosis include its effects on fertility, childbirth, and posture with aging. In the large majority of cases, scoliosis does not affect fertility. If you are a woman, you can expect a normal pregnancy and childbirth- even an epidural is most likely possible. People are also often worried about developing a “hump” as they age. This ultimately depends on the severity of the curve and how it was managed over the years.
Could I have prevented scoliosis?
Most likely, the answer is no. Scoliosis is predominantly caused by genetics and other factors that are not well understood. Issues like bad posture, leg length discrepancies, and injury might exacerbate scoliosis but will certainly not cause it. In almost all cases, there was nothing that could have been done to prevent the onset of scoliosis.
Questions Related to Scoliosis Symptoms
One of the biggest concerns surrounding scoliosis is what negative symptoms might be experienced that will put a damper on your quality of life.
Will I be limited in what I can do?
Not necessarily. Most adolescents and adults with scoliosis can continue life as normal. This means that you can continue to do the daily activities and sports that you love. Some activities, like high impact sports, may be harder to tolerate if scoliosis is moderate to severe. However, with the right support you can truly do what you would like in life without minimal restrictions. Scoliosis is not a diagnosis that surrenders you to living a fragile life. You will just simply need the right tools to live life to the fullest. Ultimately, it’s all about setting your own level of tolerance.
Will my scoliosis curve get better on its own? Or worse?
This ultimately depends on the size of your spine curvature. Very mild curvatures that are diagnosed in childhood can often correct or remain stable even into adulthood. With these cases, while treatment may not be necessary it is important to be continually monitored to be able to promptly address any type of progression or health concern that pops up. Alternatively, larger curvatures (moderate to severe) need to be continually monitored and managed to prevent progression, as they will most likely not improve on their own and do have the potential to get worse over time.
Is scoliosis painful?
There is no definite answer to this question. Pain is very subjective to each patient. Plus, severity of pain is not actually correlated to the severity of the underlying curvature. If symptoms do occur with scoliosis, pain is one of the most common ones. Common pain complaints include neck pain and back pain. Additionally, headaches and muscles aches or stiffness are also relatively common. Pain symptoms can be well managed with the right treatment.
What other symptoms will I experience with scoliosis?
Outside of pain, there are a few other common symptoms that you may or may not experience. These might include low endurance due to movement imbalances and deterioration of mental health (secondary to self-esteem and body image concerns). With more severe spine curves, organ dysfunction such as poor breathing and heart disease are possible because internal spaces within the abdomen and chest become compromised. Ultimately, symptoms can vary significantly from case to case so it’s hard to know what to expect.
Scoliosis Treatment Questions
Proper scoliosis management is an important part of living life on your own terms.
What treatment options are available for scoliosis?
The two top research supported treatments available are surgery and bracing. Surgery is reserved for severe cases that have failed conservative management and come with concerns about organ and neural health. Bracing can be used for any size of spine curvature, but is most often recommended for mild to moderate curvatures. There are a variety of bracing options on the market, such as full time braces, part-time braces, and nighttime braces. A healthcare professional can help you to decide which option is best for your needs.
Is bracing an effective treatment option for scoliosis?
Evidence based research illustrates that a scoliosis brace can help manage and prevent the progression of a curvature. “Fixing” or reducing a curvature with bracing is less supported, but also a potential possibility. Both static and dynamic braces are designed to provide counter-pressure to the spine. Dynamic braces are the most recent trend because they promote spine balance through appropriate muscle activation and strength. One top rated brace option is the ScoliBrace because it helps guide the spine in the opposite direction of the curvature.
Dr. Cynthia Boyd and her team at Symmetry Health Center are specially trained to fit patients for a ScoliBrace and manage their symptoms with other holistic methods (see below). You can call their clinics in Alameda or Oakland, CA to schedule a consultation.
What can I do for scoliosis holistically?
While conservative management of scoliosis with treatment options like massage therapy, chiropractic care, and physical therapy are not well supported in the literature, they have been shown to improve quality of life. Treatment techniques that focus on full body balance and general good health yield great results for feeling confident in your ability to self-manage your scoliosis (a great win, in and of itself). Treatment options might include spine adjustments, lifestyle recommendations (such as diet, sleep, stress management, etc.), exercise training, posture training, manual therapy, pain management, and more.
What are my options for managing scoliosis pain?
Pain from scoliosis is most often a result of muscle stiffness, musculoskeletal imbalances, and nerve dysfunction. While medication may be effective in the short term, long term use can have nasty side effects. Instead, holistically managing pain long term can be more beneficial. This often involves use of modalities like ice, heat, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, traction, and more. Additionally, focusing on restoring some semblance of balance within the body with professional guidance from a chiropractor can also reduce pain sensitivities and unnecessary muscle tension.
Now that you have a few of your more basic questions answered, it’s time to come up with a game plan. Firstly, it’s important to remember that a scoliosis diagnosis doesn’t have to define who you are and what you do in life. Understanding scoliosis and what unique challenges you might face is the first step in tackling your diagnosis head on. Overall, it’s most important to feel well-supported in your scoliosis journey. Most often, having the guidance of a health professional that understands the unique nuances of scoliosis and spine misalignment can help you feel empowered.
The specialized team at Symmetry Health Center is here to help you do just that. Not only do we specialize in scoliosis treatment, the team is also certified in Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) – a science based treatment protocol for optimizing spine health. Call our clinic today to discuss your concerns related to scoliosis and get started with the best possible management of your condition. We can help you prevent or manage symptoms that will aid you in putting your best foot forward, no matter what scoliosis brings you in the future.