The level of pain people experience with their scoliosis differs from person to person. The main factors affecting pain are age and condition severity. In some cases, scoliosis-related pain can express itself in areas of the body, other than the back. Fortunately, there are scoliosis-specific exercises, stretches, and the chiropractic-centered treatment approach which have all produced remarkable results.
There are many misconceptions about scoliosis and pain. While many consider scoliosis to be a painless condition, those with a diagnosis might disagree. Part of the misconception about scoliosis being a painless condition is rooted in truth, but that’s only the case in certain forms of the condition and within a certain age group.
Regardless of your age and condition severity level, living with scoliosis is a challenge. While I remind my patients and their caregivers that a scoliosis diagnosis is not some kind of medical-sentence, I’m also aware of the many aspects of life that can be affected by the condition.
Patients I work with can achieve curvature reductions, improve function, and manage their pain. They learn quickly that hard work can produce amazing results, and the harder a patient is willing to work, the better results I see.
Factors that affect pain include age and condition severity.
The age of a patient greatly impacts how painful their scoliosis will be. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is by far the most common form of the condition, accounting for 80 percent of known diagnosed cases.
When it comes to AIS, approximately 20 percent of adolescents report some back and muscle pain, but the vast majority of my adolescent patients experience the condition painlessly.
This is understood as a result of the lengthening motion of the spine during growth. Between 10 and 18 is the most common age for diagnosis, and as puberty takes place during this stage, growth is a huge factor.
As a person grows, their spine is lengthening; this means an absence of compression, making the condition far less painful for adolescents than adults.
While scoliosis is far more common in adolescents, adults do suffer from the condition as well. While there are instances of de novo scoliosis in adults, meaning they develop the condition during adulthood, many cases are adolescents who were undiagnosed and aged with the condition untreated into adulthood.
The majority of cases of adult scoliosis have one of the following causes: degenerative, traumatic, or pathological. Regardless of the cause, once a spinal curvature develops, adults are far more likely to deal with scoliosis-related pain than adolescents.
As adults have stopped growing, the curvature causes compression of the spine and its surrounding tissues and nerves; this can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.
In many cases, my adult patients experience pain in areas other than the back such as the feet, knees, hips, legs, neck, and headaches; these effects are felt because of the lower body’s spinal misalignment.
When it comes to the treatment of my adult patients, the goal is to return their curvature to where it was prior to progression and that reduction brings a lot of relief from pain and discomfort.
In the majority of cases, the longer a patient lives with their condition, the more likely it is that pain will increase or become a factor.
For both adolescents and adults, the severity of their condition plays a role in the symptoms they experience.
Scoliosis has three severity levels that classify the condition: mild, moderate, and severe. Severity levels are determined by the size of the curvature. This is determined via an X-ray and a measurement known as the ‘Cobb angle’.
The Cobb angle measures how far a crooked spine bends and twists away from a straight alignment. A condition classified as mild has a Cobb angle measurement of 25 degrees or less; a moderate classification covers curvatures with a measurement between 25 and 40 degrees; severe scoliosis is classified by a curvature measurement of 40+ degrees for adolescents and 50+ degrees for adults.
The more severe a spinal curvature is, the more likely it is that the patient will experience pain along with other symptoms. That doesn’t mean there is no escape from that pain; through adjustments, exercise, and stretches, a reduction can be achieved that improves function and relieves pain and discomfort.
The more severe a curvature is, the harder we have to work, but once the results of that hard work are seen and felt, patients have the motivation they need to keep up their hard work and continue living their best lives with the condition.
Here at the Scoliosis Reduction Center, our treatment plans are tailored to the specifics of each of our patient’s conditions. We don’t just treat patients with scoliosis; we treat the condition itself. Just treating the curvature is simply addressing the main symptom of the condition.
What we do at the Scoliosis Reduction Center is to treat the underlying condition, as well as the patient.
If pain is a factor in a patient’s experience with their scoliosis, we address it with a number of treatment approaches. Treatment plans are supplemented by at-home therapies, such as exercises and stretches.
A greater understanding of the condition and the efficacy of the chiropractic-centered approach has led us to a number of treatment strategies proven to improve function, relieve pain and discomfort, and reduce spinal curvatures.
Exercise has numerous health-and-wellness benefits in multiple areas of life. When it comes to scoliosis management, exercise plays a vital role. Bodies that experience regular motion are more adaptable and flexible and are better able to handle the rigors of the condition.
Bodies that are more flexible don’t experience the stiffness and related pain and discomfort that people with mobility issues experience. In general, patients who embrace exercise have better musculoskeletal systems and stronger muscles.
Another common misconception about scoliosis is that the condition leads to immobility. While there can be some physical-activity restrictions that accompany a spinal deformity like scoliosis, exercise can actually help counteract the effects of the condition, not to mention the proven mental-health benefits of regular exercise.
Finding the right balance of physical activities that are safe and beneficial for our patients is part of our approach at the Scoliosis Reduction Center. Low-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, and yoga can help reduce pain as it improves the body’s overall health and ability to adapt to the spinal curvature.
That being said, I strongly recommend that people work with their doctors to find the ideal balance of a healthy activity level to ensure its safety and efficacy.
Anyone who’s spent long periods of time being immobile knows firsthand how stiff the body can get without movement. A stiff body leads to pain and discomfort.
Spinal curvatures cause tightness as muscles on one side of the body tend to tighten in response to the curvature. Done correctly, scoliosis-specific stretches are an extremely safe and effective means of keeping those muscles surrounding the spine as loose as possible.
Once those compensating muscles are stretched and relaxed, that tightness is alleviated, decreasing pain and discomfort.
When many patients first face a scoliosis diagnosis, their main concern is how to straighten their spine and relieve related symptoms. Doctors and surgeons that support the traditional treatment path most often recommend spinal-fusion surgery once the condition has progressed to a certain point.
While spinal-fusion can be successful in terms of straightening a crooked spine, it doesn’t necessarily remove pain, and it most certainly doesn’t improve flexibility. Patients who come to me after spinal-fusion surgery are often disappointed with how the surgery has affected their pain, flexibility, and mobility.
These outcomes were one of the inspiration-points that led me to seek out alternative treatment options for my scoliosis patients; I knew there had to be a better option than costly and invasive surgery that often resulted in the need for subsequent surgeries, didn’t always improve pain, and decreased flexibility.
The chiropractic-centered approach is proven to restore function, decreasing tightness and pain as a result. Through chiropractic adjustments, my patients experience the benefits of achieving a reduction that is accomplished through natural means that actually improve the spine’s function, rather than holding it in position with rods and screws.
The body is a remarkable culmination of a number of self-sustaining systems. I remind people not to underestimate the body’s ability to adjust to bodily changes, even one as extreme as a spinal deformity. With some assistance, patients with scoliosis can help improve their body’s ability to handle the curvature by natural means. Strengthening the muscles that support the spine and improving the spine’s function naturally, through scoliosis-specific chiropractic care, yields remarkable results.
While the physical pain associated with the condition is an important symptom to address as part of any treatment plan, I find that the emotional pain and stress of living with a progressive condition such as scoliosis is often overlooked.
When you think of the many challenges of being an adolescent, add to that dealing with a condition that can change a person’s gait and physical appearance. While the associated physical changes can be subtle or noticeable, depending on the condition severity, anything that sets a young person apart from their peers can lead to a negative body image and self-esteem issues.
In extreme cases where an adolescent’s scoliosis keeps them from participating in a sport or activity, they love, feelings of hopelessness for the future are also common.
For those patients who choose the traditional treatment path and spinal-fusion surgery, the emotional stress of worrying that a screw will come loose or a rod will break can take its toll over time. These patients talk about how their fear of living with hardware in their back and the resultant physical limitations stops them from trying new things or partaking in certain physical activities.
Living with a progressive condition with no known cure changes a person’s existence. Some patients choose to passively observe their condition progressing until they follow the recommendation for spinal-fusion surgery, while others choose to face the condition as positively as possible and set their sights on how best to live their best lives and manage their condition’s progression through an alternative treatment path.
Fortunately, the aforementioned pain solutions are also effective in improving mental health and wellness.
When a patient walks into the Scoliosis Reduction Center, we assess a number of elements of a patient’s health. We treat and safeguard the whole patient, including their mental wellness. That is why we have experts from a number of disciplines as part of our team; we believe that treatment should be as multifaceted as the condition itself.
When it comes to pain, there is a marked difference between how adolescents and adults experience their scoliosis. Adolescents going through growth spurts are at the highest risk for progression, while adults who’ve stopped growing face a different challenge: pain management.
The longer a patient lives with the condition, the more likely it is that they will experience scoliosis-related pain at some point in their journey. Many factors and variables affect how people live with and manage their condition.
Working with a scoliosis specialist is the best way to determine how best to handle scoliosis-related pain. A specialist who follows a chiropractic-centered approach can help their patients strike that perfect balance of physical activity, stretches, and chiropractic adjustments that better equip the body to handle the challenges of the condition.
The natural methods of reducing scoliosis-related pain and discomfort through exercise, stretches and chiropractic-centered treatment can help restore function, strengthen spine-supporting muscles, and improve the body’s overall ability to adapt to the spinal curvature.