Is More Back Pain Caused by Undiagnosed Scoliosis in Adults Than Was Previously Thought?

Getting to your full adult height will protect you against developing idiopathic scoliosis, but it is possible to develop scoliosis later in life due to spinal degeneration. Undiagnosed idiopathic scoliosis can develop in late adolescence and can be a source of pain. Finally, scoliosis pain may not be centered in your back.

Scoliosis pain can crop up in several ways. First off, disc movement and degeneration can lead to pinched nerves. Irritated nerves can cause muscle tension, cramps and seizing. Some scoliosis can be so severe to impinge on the internal organs, causing pain and discomfort as organs offer limited, constricted or no function.

Inherent Instability

Undiagnosed idiopathic scoliosis shows up in childhood and adolescence. As the child grows, the spine curves. While there are multiple ways to diagnose this condition, including

  • a review of your ribcage as you bend forward
  • x-rays to measure the degree of curve from side to side
  • a scoliometer to check for spinal rotation

There are joints in the spine that can fail if childhood or degenerative scoliosis is severe enough. Anywhere that two bones come together is called a joint. For example, if you have joint movement low in the spine, or in the pelvis, your back may feel fine but your legs may hurt or feel numb, tingly or weak. A joint below your ribcage that shows instability may not feel like a backache; it may manifest in the stomach, in the diaphragm or may make it hard to use your arms freely. If the joints in your neck are unstable, you may have headaches, jaw pain, or jaw tension.

Leg involvement can be especially frustrating. A pinched or impinged nerve in the spine that impacts nerve transmission to your leg, you may slightly change your gait or how your body balances over the platform that runs from pelvis to knee to feet. As you change your balance, some of the muscles in the leg may lose mass. You can still walk, but the change in your gait is letting one muscle come along for the ride. The balance of power in the leg shifts slightly, and you start to have knee or hip pain. If your problems isn’t noticed until the pain shows up in the knee, or until your muscle mass is measurably different between the right vs left leg, the effort to come back from this imbalance can be extreme.

If you notice chronic pain that has no known source, such as a sore knee that you haven’t knocked or scraped, consider getting your spinal alignment checked before you start therapy on your knee or consider some form of correction. If your leg strength is imbalanced, the condition will not enjoy a long-term improvement with therapy. Worse, if you ignore the pain, the imbalance can lead to permanent damage to cartilage and soft tissue because you’re putting excess pressure on one side of the joint. Should you find out that your back pain is caused by any form of scoliosis, there are ways to reduce your nerve and muscular discomfort while you get back into proper alignment. A simple way to reduce pressure is to get in the water. Core exercise and deep stretches are easier in the water and will allow you more flexibility. For example, you could stand armpit deep in the water at the side of the pool. Put your back to the wall and extend your arms to the side. From this T stance, left your knees and pull your navel in toward your spin to tighten the muscles of your core. If this causes pain, go a bit deeper and pull one knee up at a time in a slow rhythm to get your core engaged. As you get stronger, you may be able to keep your legs straight and point your toes in long, sweeping movements.

If you suffer from any joint instability directly under the ribcage, do not do this exercise with your legs straight; the pressure of the water may be too great. In addition to water movement, you can try Pilates and yoga. Make sure you Pilates instructor knows your condition, and try to get within their line of sight for the class. You should receive modified methods of movement from the instructor for each exercise. Call us today at 205-637-1363.

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