We carry the weight of the world on our backs, and not always figuratively. However, sometimes that weight hits us before we have a chance to brace ourselves and leaves us plagued with scoliosis. We are left with a frustrating and painful situation that takes intensive medical intervention to resolve when this happens.
In most cases, this intervention involves surgery, but this is not always ideal for everyone. Not everyone is able or willing to use surgery as a means to overcome scoliosis. Some are eager to employ alternatives that will grant them the relief they want. This desire is despite the understanding that these alternatives may not be available for those with severe scoliosis. We hope to enlighten you on potential alternatives to alleviate your scoliosis symptoms and return to a less painful quality of life with this article.
What Exactly is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is an unpleasant condition that causes the spine to curve sideways, leading to more significant physiological complications. Ordinarily, scoliosis is commonly diagnosed in adolescents but can also be seen in individuals with cerebral palsy and similar conditions. The biggest issue, of course, is that the underlying cause of scoliosis remains a mystery to modern medical science.
The upside is that most diagnosed instances of scoliosis are mild and can more or less be overcome with minimal issues. However, even mild cases can be prone to deterioration, leading to severe symptoms that require some form of medical intervention. Severe cases of scoliosis can make it impossible to function as a human being, with extremely severe cases even affecting your ability to breathe.
There are two primary variants of scoliosis that are worth being on the lookout for. The first is idiopathic scoliosis, which is also the most common, which is scoliosis that develops with no known cause in adults or is diagnosed in adolescents and progresses into adult symptoms. The second type is degenerative scoliosis. It is a variant that only develops after the age of 40, leading to arthritis and other degenerative conditions that leave your spine in a much worse state than it ought to be.
The most common signs of scoliosis include uneven shoulders and/or waist, one side of the rib cage jutting out, and one hip higher than the other. In terms of symptoms, you can expect pain in the lower back, numbness and cramping in the legs, and even fatigue. Not every diagnosed scoliosis patient will experience the same symptoms or present the same signs. Still, these are common enough to serve as an excellent reference for those who suffer from them.
Once scoliosis has been diagnosed and the symptoms plaguing you have been identified, it becomes a matter of finding ways to treat the condition so your quality of life does not deteriorate further. In some instances, surgery is the method used to treat severe scoliosis. Still, for those who would prefer to avoid surgery and use a less invasive alternative, options are available that may mitigate your symptoms and help bring you back to a standard quality of life.
Ultimately, the treatment best for your specific needs will be determined by the severity of the deviation in your spinal column. Unfortunately, there are some deviations too great for less invasive treatment methods to correct.
Treating Scoliosis with Bracing
Believe it or not, surgery is not the default when it comes to helping correct scoliosis. The most common treatment employed for those who have scoliosis involves the use of bracing. By definition, scoliosis involves a lateral spine curve of at least 10 degrees, and when the curve is at least 25 degrees, your physician will attach a brace to help rectify the curve. Bracing is much more precise than you might expect since it might seem a crude solution due to the size and appearance of the braces. However, there are specialized braces for differing severities of scoliosis.
The first and most common type of brace is the Boston model. The Boston model brace is designed from a prefabricated mold selected with the patient’s measurements. Attachments are added to help compensate for your specific scoliosis curve. The Boston brace applies pressure to the outer curve to help the vertebrae realign with the rest of the spine to return to a sense of normalcy.
The second model is the Wilmington brace, which is a custom-designed brace tailor-made for the patient. Unlike the Boston model, corrective attachments are added to the brace before it is finished rather than after.
The final brace type is the Milwaukee model, which was the very first model invented in the 20th Century. It is extremely rare for the Milwaukee model to be used today, as it was rendered almost obsolete by the newer Boston and Wilmington models. However, severe enough thoracic curves can still warrant the antiquated Milwaukee brace to be used to correct them.
There are additional brace models specifically for nighttime use that are not intended to be used throughout the day instead of the full-day models we have already discussed. With braces serving as the most common non-surgical treatment option for scoliosis, the need for varying models specifically for certain levels of severity or time of day is essential to ensure that the brace is no more obstructive than it needs to be.
Using Spinal Decompression for Scoliosis
Another alternate form of treatment that is far less invasive than surgery is spinal decompression therapy. The therapy itself is mechanized, meaning the physician will be doing little to no touching while the device works to alleviate your symptoms as best as possible.
What exactly does spinal decompression therapy entail? Essentially, spinal decompression involves the use of a machine that gently stretches out your spine in a way that allows it to adjust the spine’s position. In so doing, pressure on the spinal disks is alleviated. Disks that have herniated or been displaced have the chance to retract into their original positions and relieve pressure from your nerves.
The process of attaching the device involves harnesses around your pelvis and trunk that are connected to a computer-controlled table. The specialists overseeing the treatment will then input commands in the computer to customize the treatment parameters to your particular needs. The treatment is designed to target the spinal column and squeeze out the misaligned disks to get everything back into place.
Spinal decompression sessions only last 30 to 45 minutes, so they are short and to the point. The best part about spinal decompression services is that it is efficient for all sorts of vertebral issues and does not require bulky braces or invasive surgery to help eliminate the symptoms and correct the problem. While being hooked up to a machine to correct your spine might seem intimidating, it can make all the difference. Spinal decompression can be one of the better choices for treating your scoliosis non-invasively and with minimal inconvenience to your everyday life.
Physical Therapy and Exercise
While probably not an answer you expected, physical therapy can have some benefit to help minimize the effects of scoliosis and make your spinal column less of a problem. However, it is essential to note that physical therapy will not cure scoliosis but will only help mitigate the symptoms and make it easier to handle. There are specific exercises that keep scoliosis in mind and can help make the effects more tolerable and can help to accelerate the healing process when combined with other treatment types.
One of the best exercises you can use to combat scoliosis involves taking the leg that appears to be the longer of the two and elevating it on a step or small box of some kind. Then, lower the other leg down onto the floor and bend your knee. During the descending action, raise the corresponding arm to the leg being lowered as high as physically possible. This exercise should only be performed on one side in 2 or 3 sets of 5-10 reps.
Another exercise you can use involves entering a prone planking position with both arms stretched straight out as you push your hips back and up as far as you can. Hold the position for two seconds before lowering your hips back down as low as you can without discomfort. Once again, perform sets of 2 or 3 of 5-10 reps.
There also exists a scoliosis-specific exercise type known as Schroth exercises, which are asymmetric postural exercises. Schroth exercises are designed to subconsciously reinforce better posture habits to minimize the adverse effects of scoliosis and adjust the stance you take. In addition, using Schroth exercises can help improve the endurance of back muscles and mitigate pain levels attributed to scoliosis.
Unfortunately, none of these exercises are enough to overcome scoliosis entirely and should be combined with actual treatment to ensure you get the best possible results. However, using physical therapy and exercise should only be done with consent from your physician to ensure doing so does not inadvertently exacerbate the problem.
When is Surgery Inevitable?
With all the options available to repair the damage caused by scoliosis, you might be curious as to why surgery would ever actually be necessary. The answer is very simple. Scoliosis is not set in stone, and people will have varying degrees of curvature in their spine that will plague them. However, in some cases, the curve is so far out of line that surgery becomes the only viable option left.
The upshot is that the spinal distortion that warrants surgery is rare enough that you would need to have a radically damaged spine even to have to worry about considering it. According to medical professionals, the only time surgery is recommended without fail is when the deviation of the spine is 50 degrees or more. Such a radical deviation can lead to complications in the shape and formation of the rib cage. In addition, this distortion can lead to general discomfort and, more urgently, damage to the organs within.
However, since deviations of 50 degrees or greater are extremely unlikely without severe injury that would warrant surgical procedures anyway or the condition going unnoticed for long enough that it simply deteriorates to that point, you are unlikely to need surgery. In most cases, the non-surgical solutions for dealing with scoliosis will be more straightforward for your needs and should not incur further damage.
Scoliosis is extremely unpleasant and downright detrimental to our overall physical health, with many potential complications that can spread and make it near impossible to function. While surgery may be required for the extremely severe forms of scoliosis, it will not be mandatory for the more common types. It is all dependent on how far out of line your spine is in relation to the spinal column.
With less than a 25-degree deviation, you will not need extensive treatment. With a 25-degree deviation, more advanced treatment will be required, but surgery will not be essential to your recovery. Only those with a 50-degree deviation will have to worry about seeking out surgical correction. If you do not fall under that criterion, any of the alternatives we have discussed can serve as effective treatment avenues to rectify the effects of your spinal deviation.
There are plenty of clinics and facilities that will make less invasive treatments available to you and can help to bring you back to the quality of life you deserve. However, before you commit to any form of treatment, we urge you to consult with your primary care physician to verify what the best course of action is for your health. Until then, we hope you stay happy as you take your health to the Next Level.
If you have any comments, questions, or concerns regarding scoliosis, its treatment, or what we can do for you, please feel free to reach out and contact us at any time! We understand that it’s a stressful condition to live with, and would be more than happy to clear up any of those questions or concerns you may be having.