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.