For those who may not be familiar with scoliosis, it is a condition that causes the spine to curve. Scoliosis is generally characterized by uneven shoulders, an uneven waist, or one hip that appears higher than the other. It is also not uncommon for those with scoliosis to have one shoulder blade that is more pronounced than the other. That said, the condition affects 3 percent of all adolescents and is more common in girls than boys. The effects of scoliosis are usually mild; however, the condition can worsen the longer it goes untreated. According to several studies, a severely curved spine can reduce space in the chest, which negatively impacts lung function. Scoliosis can also cause the spine to twist and rotate, which can lead to a deformed rib cage, poor posture, and mobility problems.
TREATMENTS FOR SCOLIOSIS
Now that we have a basic understanding of scoliosis and how the condition impacts the body, let’s take a look at treatments that can provide some much-needed relief and also improve posture:
When it comes to scoliosis, the severity of the spinal curvature will often dictate the type of treatment that is needed. That said, those with a mild spinal curve measuring between 20 and 40 degrees can benefit from wearing a back brace. While these devices will not correct an already curved spine, they can prevent the condition from becoming worse. Furthermore, the rigid construction of most back braces keeps individuals from slouching, which prevents aches and stress on the neck, not to mention the back. For best results, a back brace must be worn for 16 to 23 hours each day.
For those with mild to moderate scoliosis, exercise can be beneficial. According to a study published by the National Institute of Health, the right exercises can target the muscles responsible for posture. Some of these exercises include
Active self-correction – These task-oriented exercises, which target the muscles around the curved spine, can improve both stability and posture. Some of the most common active self-correction exercises include
- Maintaining a supine position (lying horizontally with the face and torso facing up) while keeping your knees flexed at 90 degrees.
- Standing up from a seated position and then walking
- Standing while balancing an object on your head with your knees partially flexed
- Engaging in climbing activities
Targeted stretching – Yoga and similar stretching exercises can help ease tension on the spinal cord, which, in turn, minimizes the stiffness commonly associated with scoliosis.
Isometric and isotonic exercises – These modified yoga exercises can help improve stability, untwist the spine, and strengthen core muscles, all of which can contribute to better posture.
Neuromuscular re-education – These exercises consist of standing balancing exercises, seated stability exercises, and isometric muscle contractions that improve postural control.
Generally considered a last resort, surgery is often recommended for individuals with severe spinal curvature measuring between 45 and 50 degrees. The type of surgery performed to correct scoliosis is spinal fusion surgery, which entails fusing the curved vertebrae together. As they heal, the vertebrae will become one solid bone, which will prevent the spine from bending any further. Spinal fusion surgery can also correct existing spinal deformities as well.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING SPINAL FUSION SURGERY
Having established that spinal fusion surgery can prevent scoliosis from becoming worse and also correct existing spinal curvatures, let’s take a closer look at what this type of surgery entails:
Incisions – When performing spinal fusion surgery, the surgeon will start by making a small incision in the patient’s neck or back. Alternatively, the incision can also be made on either side of their spine as well.
Bone grafting – This part of the surgical procedure involves fusing two vertebrae together. The small bones used to complete this aspect of the surgery can come from either a bone bank or taken from the patient’s own pelvic bone.
Fusion – Rounding out the surgical procedure, the surgeon will permanently fuse the vertebrae, which involves placing the bone graft material (bones from a bone bank or bone taken from the pelvic bone) in-between the vertebrae. To help keep the bone graft material in place, the surgeon may use screws, rods, or metal plates. All in all, the healing time following spinal fusion surgery is usually 3 to 6 months.
All of the treatments aimed at minimizing pain and discomfort associated with scoliosis are equally effective when it comes to improving posture and mobility, not to mention your overall quality of life. To learn more about scoliosis treatments, you’re encouraged to speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable associates today at 205-637-1363.