SCOLIOSIS – WHAT IS IT AND WHERE CAN YOU GET HELP?…

Scoliosis is a condition where there’s an abnormal curvature in the spine. Most people’s spine runs straight down their back (from the neck down to the lower back). However, scoliosis patients have a backbone that curves to the side. When this happens, the spinal column may be twisted.

While this may sound excruciatingly painful, the truth of the matter is that most scoliosis sufferers feel no pain. Only the structure of their upper body gives an indication that they have scoliosis.

While the condition itself is not painful, due to the curvature, back pain may occur. It all depends on the degree of the curvature… and the type of scoliosis.

Congenital scoliosis
This occurs prior to birth and children born with it will still be able to engage in sports and other activities like their peers. However, as they get older, the condition will become more visible if the curvature is progressive. This will cause the body to compensate and other muscles, ligaments and joints will take up the slack.
This can stress them out over a long time. The back may be inflamed and painful. There may be numbness and weakness in the area too.

In the early stages, braces can be used to correct the curvature and they’re very effective. Of course, there will be the embarrassment that many kids feel at having to wear these braces/casts. However, this early treatment will save them a lot of pain in future.

Degenerative scoliosis
Like its name suggests, this condition worsens over time. The problem escalates because the curvature keeps getting worse. If the patient has osteoporosis, this can be a very serious situation which may result in vertebral collapse.

Chronic back pain usually accompanies degenerative scoliosis because the constant pressure on the spine makes it inflamed. Doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication or use injections to help relieve the pain. The patient will also need to lose any excess weight to help with the healing process. Osteopathic manipulation, acupressure and even acupuncture may also be used as complementary holistic treatments.

Neuromuscular and syndromic scoliosis
While these are two different types of scoliosis, they have one common trait. Both are the result of other illnesses in the body. Neuromuscular scoliosis usually occurs at an early age, and as it progresses the curve will worsen.

Braces and surgery only have limited effectiveness. This condition is linked to neurological disorders and should be assessed on a case by case basis. Most often, you’ll need to consult a specialist in the field to treat this type of scoliosis.

Syndromic scoliosis occurs when there are genetic disorders. Here too, it’s best to seek the advice of a professional. Very often, syndromic scoliosis can be detected during childhood and monitored closely. Surgery or braces can be used to correct the curve but it all depends on the individual.

The back pain that one may get from scoliosis can be treated with medication, hot and cold treatments, massage, etc. All these will help to mitigate the pain, but for long term relief, it’s possible that one may require surgery. Your doctor will be the best person to advise you on this matter.

The Scoliosis Association (UK) (SAUK) aims to provide advice, support and information to people with scoliosis and other spinal conditions, including kyphosis and lordosis.

SAUK has a variety of ways to support you – they run a dedicated helpline and you can get further support by becoming a member, allowing access to the scoliosis contacts network, local support through Regional Representatives, access to the online members’ forum, and our magazine, Backbone.

Ailie Harrison and Stephanie Clark formed the Scoliosis Self-Help Group, the forerunner of the Scoliosis Association (UK), in 1981 to help people with scoliosis and their families. The group started out in a small way with about 200 members, all of whom were past or present patients of Dr Phillip Zorab at the Brompton Hospital, London. Dr Zorab was an eminent chest physician with an interest in scoliosis, and as his work grew a need for support for scoliosis patients was identified and the charity set up.

The group changed its name in 1986 to conform with its sister organisations in the USA and Canada, but its aim of self-help remained. The formation of the British group has stimulated interest all over the world and self-help groups modelled on SAUK have now been set up elsewhere. These groups exchange newsletters, and many members from different countries correspond with each other.

Over the past years membership subscription has grown into the thousands.

The organisation is run by a few dedicated staff and with the help of volunteers from among the membership. In November, 2006, SAUK became officially affiliated with the British Scoliosis Research Foundation (BSRF). SAUK remains the only national support group for children and adults with scoliosis in the UK and there are no signs that the need for the service has decreased since it was established.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF BACK PAIN…

The most common type of back pain that people suffer from is often acute back pain. This is pain that’s severe and happens out of nowhere, or at least it seems that way. In reality, there’s often a trigger that caused the pain, and you’ll be able to remedy the problem once you figure out what it is.

Chronic back pain, however, is recurrent and can last for weeks or months, and sometimes even longer. It’s usually related to diseases such as osteoporosis, degenerative disc disease, etc.

The severity of your back pain usually dictates whether you’ll see a doctor or not. Most people with mild back pain, tend to just wait things out and rest. While this is understandable, if the pain is nagging and doesn’t go away, you must see a doctor as soon as possible so that any possible problems can be treated in the early stages.

 

Sudden onset back pain

If you have sudden onset back pain, this could be due to an injury or a fall, or a strain. In some cases, the pain may only show up a day after the event, so you may have forgotten about it.

For example, if you strained your back while moving the couch, your lower back may start to throb or hurt a day later. By then you may have forgotten about the couch and be wondering why your back hurts. So, you’ll need to think back.

This is just one example. Working out at the gym, braking suddenly while driving, or even bumps to the back can cause back pain. In these cases, some pain killers and rest will suffice.

Usually, lifting heavy objects or twisting your trunk may cause sudden onset back pain. The facet joints get temporarily out of alignment and this will cause the joint to get inflamed. The surrounding soft tissues and muscles will get swollen and hurt. You may need to see a doctor.

 

Gradual onset back pain

Another type of back pain is one that starts gradually. Sciatica is one such issue. If you have pain that’s located between your lower back and glutes, you might be suffering from ankylosing spondylitis. Pregnant women whose backs are strained will also display similar symptoms.

Another serious gradual onset back pain arises when there is inflammation in the sacroiliac joints. In cases like these, you must see a doctor. Numbness around your back and buttocks, loss of bladder control, pain during bowel movements, etc. are all signs of back issues that require professional medical attention.

 

Chronic back pain

With these types of back pain, it may seem like there’s no cause. The pain may come and go away. It’s episodic, recurrent and not as severe as acute back pain.

Usually chronic back pain arises due to poor posture that takes a toll on the joints and muscles over time. Correcting your posture will remedy the problem. It could also be due to aging, where your joints suffer wear and tear.

If the pain is persistent or worsens, there may be inflammation. It’ll be best to see a doctor.

These are the 3 types of back pain that generally affect most people. What you really need to know is that when assessing your pain, you must be honest with yourself. If the pain is getting worse, do not bury your head in the sand and expect it to go away. Immediately visit a doctor and get it checked out. A stitch in time saves nine.

4 COMPLETELY DIFFERENT BACK PROBLEMS BUT WITH SIMILAR NAMES…

Back pain comes in an array of different conditions with some that have similar names which can make it a bit confusing. Four similar conditions are SPONDYLOLISTHESIS, OSTEOPOROSIS, SCOLIOSIS and SPONDYLOSIS SPONDYLOLISTHESIS

Spondylolisthesis is where one of the bones in your spine, known as a vertebra, slips out of position.

It’s most common in the lower back, but it can also happen in the mid to upper back or at the top of the spine at the back of your neck.

Spondylolisthesis is not the same as a slipped disc. A slipped disc is when a disc (the tissue between the bones in your spine) moves out of place.

Many people may not realise they have spondylolisthesis because it does not always cause symptoms.

Symptoms can include:

  • lower back pain – which is usually worse when you’re active or when you’re standing, and is often relieved by lying down 
  • pain, numbness or a tingling feeling spreading from your lower back down your legs (sciatica) – this happens if the bone in the spine presses on a nerve 
  • tight hamstring muscles 
  • stiffness or tenderness in your back 
  • curvature of the spine (kyphosis)

The severity of these symptoms can vary from person to person.

OSTEOPOROSIS…

Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It develops slowly over several years and is often only diagnosed when a fall or sudden impact causes a bone to break (fracture).

The most common injuries in people with osteoporosis are:

However, breaks can also happen in other bones, such as in the arm or pelvis. Sometimes a cough or sneeze can cause a broken rib or the partial collapse of one of the bones of the spine.

Osteoporosis is not usually painful until a bone is broken, but broken bones in the spine are a common cause of long-term pain.

Although a broken bone is often the first sign of osteoporosis, some older people develop the characteristic stooped (bent forward) posture. It happens when the bones in the spine have broken, making it difficult to support the weight of the body.

Osteoporosis can be treated with bone strengthening medicines.

SCOLIOSIS…

Scoliosis is where the spine twists and curves to the side.

It can affect people of any age, from babies to adults, but most often starts in children aged 10 to 15.

Scoliosis doesn’t normally improve without treatment, but it isn’t usually a sign of anything serious and treatment isn’t always needed if it’s mild.

Signs of scoliosis include:

  • a visibly curved spine 
  • leaning to one side 
  • uneven shoulders 
  • one shoulder or hip sticking out 
  • the ribs sticking out on one side 
  • clothes not fitting well 

Some people with scoliosis may also have back pain. This tends to be more common in adults with the condition.

SPONDYLOSIS …

Cervical spondylosis causes neck pain – often in the over 50s. A GP should check more serious cases affecting the spine.

Ageing causes wear and tear to muscles and bones – called cervical spondylosis. 

Symptoms include:

  • neck and shoulder pain or stiffness – that comes and goes
  • headaches – often starting at the back of the neck

Source : NHS England