Today’s post is extra special, because tomorrow (Saturday 25th June 2016) happens to be Scoliosis Awareness Day – a whole 24 hours devoted to raising awareness for an incredibly un-publicised but deceptively common disorder.
I know from experience how unbelievably important it is to have contact with people who have been through the same, or similar experience, or at least to have people who understand the concept of scoliosis, therefore I have put together a really quick factsheet that gives answers to some of the go to questions for anyone diagnosed with this condition:
What Scoliosis is
- Scoliosis is a musculoskeletal condition that causes the spine to develop lateral (side to side) curvatures, instead of going straight up and down.
- There are two ways that scoliosis can manifest: S curve (shaped like an S with two curves) and C curve (shaped like a C with one curve).
- The curves will differ to varying degrees depending on the individual case.
- Scoliosis is often accompanied with a twisting of the vertebrae, which means that one shoulder blade, and one side of the rib cage may be more prominent than the other.
Who gets Scoliosis
There are a variety of categories of scoliosis that can affect people at different points in their lives, for example:
- Before birth (congenital)
- In young children (early onset),
- In older children and teenagers (adolescent idiopathic)
- As adults (degenerative or de novo).
Famous People with Scoliosis
Usain Bolt, Sarah Michelle Geller, Elizabeth Taylor, Kurt Cobain, Vanessa Williams, Shailene Woodley, Daryl Hannah and Liza Minnelli. To name just a few.
Why you get Scoliosis
- The majority of scoliosis cases are idiopathic which, unfortunately, means that the cause is unknown. Genetics has a potential factor, but the extent of this is also unclear.
- In some cases, scoliosis is a symptom of another muscular or nervous condition, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.
- In older adults (degenerative scoliosis) the cause tends to be related to a weakening of the bones and muscles.
How Straight is your Spine?
- A common test for scoli is the Adams Forward Bend Test, which simply involves the patient bending forwards from the waist and hips so that their upper body is almost horizontal, with their feet approximately hip width apart. This makes any discrepancies in the posture, such as twisted ribs, and the mapping of the vertebrae much more obvious.
- Other key factors to look out for is the mismatching of pairs – for example, one shoulder blade, side of the rib cage, or one hip more prominent than its pair. One shoulder can be higher than the other, and I also spotted that my waist was slightly wonky.
- It’s worth noting that just because you may have some of these symptoms (after all, no-one is perfect) does not necessarily mean you suffer from scoliosis. Or, even if you have a mild curvature in the spine, this will not necessarily call a need for intervention of any sort. But it’s always worth paying attention to your body, and your posture in particular.
- Surgery – according to many, the only method that physically corrects the actual curves in the spine to “straighten it out”, as it were. Surgery is intense, and general only advised if the degrees of the scoliotic curves are over a certain amount. It’s a tough decision whether or not to put your body through this – surgery involves metal rods and screws being inserted into the back and fused to the vertebrae, providing a sort of scaffolding which helps to keep the spine straight.
- It’s probably worth saying (for those going through the decision making process) that I have no regrets whatsoever about my decision to undergo surgery. There are downsides to having a fused spine, of course, and recovery time can be long, but I’m left with a killer scar and a bionic spine too, so no regrets at all.
- Physio/Exercise Therapy – This is a tricky one, because although a lot of medical professionals (including my own surgeon) will say that physio cannot literally lessen the degrees of the curvature, there are methods of such exercise therapy that have demonstrated precisely these results – so, physiotherapy techniques that can be used to lessen the extent of the actual scoliosis, rather than just address the side effects, such as back pain. As with any such argument, there’s quite a significant amount of research that supports both sides of the story. Personally, I’m of the opinion that even if exercise cannot literally correct scoliosis, the effect that regular physio or training can have on symptoms such as pain and posture is invaluable.
- Bracing – Bracing used to be used, however I had pretty severe scoliosis and was never given a brace. My surgeon told me that they are being used less and less nowadays as often the discomfort and inconvenience of constantly wearing a brace isn’t worth the minimal amount of correction that it actually offers.
Will it stop me….
- Having scoliosis and/or undergoing scoliosis surgery should not ever stop you from doing the things that you enjoy. There is significant recovery time from surgery, and often the spine does not fully fuse to its metal scaffolding until two years post operation. Because of this, for a time, you do have to be careful what you are doing and how you are treating your body
But surely that’s just common sense?
In the long run, after you’ve recovered, I don’t see why you should hold back. Sport, dance, flying (aeroplanes, that is), having babies (for the girls), watersport… I’ve been skiing twice post-surgery, and I definitely intend to tick sky-diving off my bucket list. Don’t let it hold you back.
If you have any questions, or if you are suffering from scoliosis and would like someone to talk to, please comment, or feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Logo credits to the Scoliosis Association UK. Their website is really user friendly and informative so if you need more thorough info, I’d greatly advise that you pay them a visit: http://www.sauk.org.uk