People with scoliosis suffer from varying degrees of pain based on a number of factors such as their age, fitness level, and the severity of their condition. Fortunately, there are a number of non-surgical ways for people with scoliosis to manage their pain.
No one wants to live with pain, nor should anyone have to. The sad reality, though, is that many people live with diseases and conditions that make pain a part of their daily lives.
When people struggle with pain, the regular aspects of life that bring them pleasure can fall by the wayside. Priorities can change from living and enjoying life to simply trying to manage the pain and get through the days.
People with scoliosis deal with varying degrees of pain. While many cases of spinal deformity affect people more so in functional ways, scoliosis-related pain can be a very real issue.
The first thing I will say is that if you are experiencing pain with your scoliosis, it means something should be done. Every scoliosis case is different and so the pain-management needs and strategies will differ. Depending on the size of the curvature and its location, your doctor will have different advice on what types of exercise, etc. are appropriate for your individual condition.
Experts have assigned three severity levels to scoliosis: mild, moderate, and severe. This designation is based upon the patient’s degree of spinal curvature, measured by what’s known as a Cobb angle.
A Cobb angle measurement is taken with an X-ray and records the degree to which the spine deviates from a straight alignment. Generally speaking, the more severe the spinal curvature, the greater the likelihood is that the patient will experience pain as a result.
Scoliosis-related pain is complicated and has no easy fix. Living with a progressive condition means treatment will often follow a two-pronged path: one that focuses on managing the symptoms of the condition and the other that focuses on slowing or stopping the condition’s progression.
Many people who suffer from scoliosis-related pain choose spinal-fusion surgery out of fear. Some think it might be the only option to alleviate their pain, or they feel surgery is a preemptive strike against increasing pain levels associated with aging.
I respond to these concerns by pointing out to my patients that surgery is neither their only, nor their best option. While surgery can be successful in terms of making the spine straighter, it can have a big cost in terms of flexibility, functionality, and overall body health. Often, pain at the fusion site or infection can also be prevalent and lead to further complications and subsequent surgeries.
Surgeons do their very best to minimize negative outcomes and surgical side effects, but the bottom line is that spinal-fusion surgery is costly, invasive, and has the potential to affect the body in numerous negative ways.
The obvious place you would expect scoliosis-related pain to show up is, of course, in the back. What surprises a lot of people is that scoliosis can cause pain in a number of other places as well.
Specifically, in cases where the spinal curvature is in the upper back, patients can experience a lot of tension headaches. Anyone who has ever struggled with bad headaches knows how debilitating they can be. Scoliosis-related tension headaches can also reach migraine status.
For those who haven’t experienced a migraine, they can be agonizing and are often accompanied by a loss of vision, numbness and tingling throughout the body, or particularly down one side, nausea, sensitivity to light, movement, sound, and crippling pain.
Scoliosis is also known to lead to a decreased flow of cerebrospinal fluid which can further exacerbate the frequency and severity of headaches.
In addition to back pain and headaches, there are a number of other areas of the body that experience scoliosis-related pain:
The key to managing scoliosis-related pain is to be proactive. The traditional approach to treating scoliosis, especially if first diagnosed as mild or moderate, involves a lot of observation. Often, treatment isn’t initiated until the curvature reaches severe levels or there is a rapid progression.
Not only can initiating early treatment slow or stop the condition’s progression, it can also be hugely beneficial in terms of managing pain and other scoliosis-related symptoms.
If scoliosis is left untreated, it is likely that one or more of the following negative side effects can also become an issue:
Every patient has their own unique set of symptoms and strategies for managing those symptoms. In addition to the curvature’s severity, there is another crucial factor that impacts the level of pain in my patients: age.
There is a lot of mystery that still surrounds scoliosis. A lot of that mystery resides around causation as 80 percent of diagnosed scoliosis cases are classed as idiopathic. ‘Idiopathic’ means having no known single cause. Within that group, the majority of those cases are classed as ‘adolescent idiopathic scoliosis’, and this is where age and pain become relevant.
Adolescents with scoliosis experience pain very differently from adults with the condition. The most common age of diagnosis is between 10 and 18 years of age. This age group experiences the most rapid phase of growth, known as puberty. During this stage, the body is constantly growing and changing.
While the body is growing, the spine is experiencing an upward growth motion as the body is elongating. That upward growth is why adolescent scoliosis patients report very little, if any, pain.
Obviously, adulthood is marked by a lack of growth. Once growth and that lengthening motion stops, scoliosis-related pain expresses itself more aggressively.
As the lengthening of the spine is replaced by compression of the spine, that compression places pressure on the spine and its surrounding nerves and tissues. The discomfort and pain can become debilitating and worsens with age, especially if left untreated.
Here at the Scoliosis Reduction Center, we’ve learned a lot about the power of scoliosis-specific chiropractic treatment and pain management. Not only does our chiropractic-centered treatment approach have positive results in terms of managing the condition’s progression and achieving a reduction, it also provides our patients with a lot of relief and helps restore function.
Firstly, I have to remind people that no exercise regimen should be adopted without first speaking to your doctor; that being said, exercise has huge benefits for people with scoliosis, which is why it’s such an integral part of our functional patient-centered treatment approach at the Scoliosis Reduction Center.
Bodies that experience movement regularly are healthier in general. They are more flexible, adaptable, and have stronger muscles and musculoskeletal systems. Bodies that are healthier and stronger can better adapt to a spinal curvature, which means less pain and discomfort. Low-impact exercises such as swimming, walking, and cycling help keep the muscles strong to help support the spine and keep the body flexible so it can better handle the spinal curvature.
Let’s not forget about the proven benefits that regular exercise has on overall health and wellness. Having a healthy mindset cannot be understated for anyone, but especially for those dealing with the added challenge of living with a progressive condition like scoliosis.
Stretching seems like a simple thing, but it can have huge benefits when it comes to managing scoliosis-related pain. Spinal curvatures lead to tightness and decreased flexibility, which leads to pain. As the muscles on one side of the body tighten to compensate for the curvature, the person will experience that feeling of tightness and discomfort as a result.
Stretching reduces that tightness and helps keep flexibility and range of motion as functioning as possible. Stretches help those tight overcompensating muscles to relax, which gives my patients a huge amount of relief.
As my chiropractic-centered treatment approach focuses on increasing functionality, that increase in functionality means helping my patients retain as much flexibility and range of motion as possible.
As mentioned above, a lot of the pain and discomfort that affects my patients is the result of tight muscles that are overcompensating for their spinal curvature. Our scoliosis-specific chiropractic care focuses on strengthening those muscles so they are better able to deal with the curvature and less likely to stiffen and seize.
My treatment approach helps strengthen the spine’s surrounding muscles so it can be supported in a corrective position while providing relief as those muscles are relaxed and flexibility is maintained.
Not only has this approach shown remarkable achievements in terms of slowing or stopping the condition’s progression and achieving a curvature-reduction, it also happens to provide my patients with huge pain-relief benefits which greatly impacts their quality of life.
It can be difficult to know what to do when your back hurts from scoliosis. When my patients come to me with complaints of pain, I do my very best to provide them with strategies and methods to manage that pain. Fortunately, it just so happens that a huge part of my functional patient-centered approach marries two aspects of treatment: managing the condition’s symptoms and slowing/stopping the condition’s progression.
Once we have tackled the structural issue of the curvature, I work closely with my patients to come up with a treatment plan that incorporates exercise, stretching, and scoliosis-specific chiropractic care. These treatment areas offer my patients a sustainable form of pain management that also benefits the overall condition.
Surgery is not the only way to manage scoliosis pain, and especially for my older patients, managing increasing scoliosis-related pain as they age is a real concern. My approach to treatment is multifaceted and has seen impressive results that give my patients an effective and appealing alternative to undergoing invasive spinal fusion surgery.