Each case of scoliosis is as unique as the individual who has the condition. It affects different people in different ways, and there are varying levels of severity. Because the reality of dealing with scoliosis is different for each patient, treatment needs to be based on the particular needs of the individual and the severity of the condition. There simply is no one-size-fits-all treatment for scoliosis.
When it comes to severe scoliosis, however, traditional treatment methods almost always recommend surgery. Severe scoliosis comes with a high probability of the condition worsening. In fact, severe scoliosis carries a 90% risk of progression. That is why orthopedic doctors and others who treat the condition in the traditional manner recommend surgery. And it is why the condition needs to be taken very seriously.
If you or your child are dealing with severe scoliosis, you may feel pressured to opt for expensive and invasive surgery. Or you may assume that treatment options involving less invasive techniques are not worth your time. But the truth is that there are effective options outside of surgery for those with severe scoliosis.
The Different Degrees of Scoliosis
Although there are no formally recognized classifications of different degrees of scoliosis, experts have agreed on some basic designations.
Generally, scoliosis is described as mild, moderate or severe.
Mild scoliosis refers to cases in which the Cobb angle measures at 25 degrees or less
Moderate scoliosis describes cases where the Cobb angle measures between 25 and 40 degrees
Severe scoliosis is a term used to describe the condition when Cobb angles measure at 40+ degrees for adolescents and 50+ degrees for adults
Traditional treatment methods recommend watching and waiting for mild scoliosis, with some doctors recommending exercises for their patients. Typical treatment guidelines recommend bracing for those with moderate scoliosis. And, of course, surgery is often outlined as the only viable treatment option for those who have a severe case of the condition.
In reality, the traditional approach to treating scoliosis almost always funnels patients to surgical solutions, regardless of the severity of the condition.
The watching-and-waiting approach usually leads to a progression and worsening of the condition. Inevitably, the scoliosis moves into the moderate or severe classification. If traditional braces are prescribed and used, they may slow the progression of the curve, but sooner or later, patients will find themselves at a point where surgery is recommended as the sole option for treatment.
I don’t think it has to be this way!
I believe that proactive, chiropractic-centered treatment options can be implemented for patients, regardless of the severity of their case. Even for those who live with severe scoliosis.
Life With Severe Scoliosis
Once a case of scoliosis has become severe, it is important to know that surgery does not always prevent the continued progression of one’s abnormal spinal curvature. The patient’s Cobb angle can continue to increase, even after the individual’s spine has stopped growing. When scoliosis is severe, traditional bracing is also ineffective, which is why surgery is so often recommended by surgeons.
Severe scoliosis also makes life more complicated for patients. It can contribute to daily, chronic pain, and it can place limits on a patient’s lifestyle. Additionally, patients who live with severe scoliosis tend to be quite conscious of their posture, gait and the way their clothes fit them. This makes them particularly sensitive to how others may treat them. Those with severe scoliosis also must deal with a heightened emotional component to the condition. Patients at this level may be more prone to experiencing a negative self image, depression, substance abuse or even suicidal thoughts.
Life with severe scoliosis can be challenging, to say the least. And when patients are faced with choosing invasive, expensive surgery as their only way forward, it can make them feel helpless.
A Different Way to Treat Severe Scoliosis
If you have severe scoliosis, is it too late for non surgical treatment? While surgeons may recommend surgery as the only relevant treatment option, I want patients and their families to know that alternatives exist.
When scoliosis becomes severe, treatment can be challenging for the patient — it requires a strong commitment, and results will not reveal themselves overnight. But I believe the difficulties faced by patients who choose less invasive treatment options pale in comparison to those who opt for surgery.
Numerous studies have highlighted poor outcomes for those who have been treated with surgery. And in many cases, a second surgery becomes necessary to remove hardware once the bone fusion has taken place. Surgery is not guaranteed to reduce pain, disfigurement or disability, either.
Here at the Scoliosis Reduction Center, our patients with severe scoliosis amaze me with their hard work and commitment to improvement. Together, we treat the condition using custom plans designed for each individual patient. Through chiropractic care, exercise, rehabilitation and specialized bracing, patients can avoid surgery and make significant improvements in their ability to get the most out of life. And if, for some reason, the non surgical treatments do not work, patients can always choose surgery at a later date. I just want to make sure that patients and their families understand surgery is not their only option!
If you or your child are dealing with a case of severe scoliosis, you need to understand that not all roads lead to surgery! There are effective, alternative treatment options available. Yes, treatment will take time and effort, but it can help you find relief in a manner that is less invasive, less expensive and more personally empowering than surgery.