Scoliosis isn’t always painful, but it can be, particularly if left untreated or not treated proactively. Scoliosis introduces a lot of uneven forces to the body that can lead to a host of issues, including back pain, radicular pain, and muscle pain. The best remedy for scoliosis pain is an effective treatment.
When it comes to scoliosis pain, each patient will have their own unique experience. Adults and adolescents tend to experience condition-related pain differently due to compression, and in addition to back pain, scoliosis can also cause radicular pain and muscle pain.
Before getting to the specifics of scoliosis pain, let’s first talk generally about the condition.
There are many different spinal conditions a person can develop that involve a loss of the spine’s healthy curves, but scoliosis is particularly prevalent and complex for a number of reasons.
Scoliosis involves the development of an unnatural sideways spinal curve, with rotation, and it’s the rotation (spine twisting from back to front, front to back) that makes scoliosis a 3-dimensional condition.
In addition, a scoliotic curve has to have a minimum Cobb angle of 10 degrees to be diagnosed as scoliosis.
Cobb angle is a measurement taken during an X-ray that tells me how far out of alignment a scoliotic spine is and classifies conditions based on severity:
Another important condition feature to understand is its progressive nature: it will get worse over time.
Where a condition is at the time of diagnosis is not indicative of where it will stay; mild scoliosis can easily progress to become moderate, severe, or very severe.
Generally speaking, the higher the Cobb angle and the more rotation there is, the more likely the condition is to cause noticeable symptoms and be painful, particularly in adults for whom the condition is compressive.
So for those experiencing scoliosis pain, how bad can it get?
As a highly-variable and complex condition, there is no general experience of life with scoliosis, and part of the diagnostic process is comprehensively assessing conditions so they can be further classified based on key patient/condition variables: patient age, condition type (cause), curvature location, and condition severity.
These classification points also help me predict a patient’s likeliest rate of progression and experienced symptoms.
Again, each case is unique, but certain variables indicate certain condition characteristics, and when it comes to pain, patient age is crucial.
Scoliosis pain tends to be worse for adults than children and adolescents, and this is due to growth and progression.
In children and adolescents, scoliosis isn’t commonly described as painful, and this is because the condition doesn’t become compressive until adulthood.
While a person is still growing, their spine is experiencing a constant lengthening motion that counteracts the compressive force of the unnatural spinal curve, but once skeletal maturity has been reached, the spine, and its surrounding muscles and nerves, are vulnerable to compression.
So, in adolescents, the main symptom of scoliosis is postural deviation, but in adults, it’s pain. How bad scoliosis pain is will depend on a combination of factors, including the type of treatment being applied.
Now, let’s address the different types of pain scoliosis is associated with.
So as mentioned, for children and adolescents, back pain isn’t always an issue, but again, that will depend on a number of factors that vary from one patient to the next.
In general, for adults, back pain is an issue, and this can take the form of localized back pain that’s concentrated where the scoliosis is in the spine.
There are three main spinal sections: cervical (neck), thoracic (middle/upper back), and lumbar (lower back).
If a person has lumbar scoliosis, their back pain is likely to be the most intense in the lower back, but as scoliosis can also involve the development of compensatory curves, back pain can also be spread throughout the back and not just isolated to one section.
The back can hurt quite simply because the spine is unnaturally curved and twisted, and this structural abnormality in the spine can cause varying levels of pain, related mainly to patient age, angle of trunk rotation (ATR), and condition severity.
In addition to localized and general back pain, radicular pain can be felt throughout the body.
As a spine is curved unnaturally, it introduces a lot of uneven forces to the body, and as the spinal canal is home to 31 pairs of spinal nerves, an unnaturally-curved spine can also expose spinal nerves to uneven pressure.
Nerve compression can cause nerves to become inflamed, irritated, compressed, pinched, or impinged.
As nerves are like branches on a tree, fanning off in multiple directions, if a nerve is exposed to uneven pressure either at its root where it exits the spine or anywhere along its pathway, pain can be felt far from its site of origin.
Radicular pain is often described as one of the worst forms of back pain, but it can range from mild and intermittent to chronic and debilitating.
Nerve pain can feel like sharp shooting pains, or a dull ache, or can feel like electric shock-like pains.
For example, for those living with lumbar scoliosis, sciatica is a common complication as the sciatic nerve starts in the lower back, so if the lumbar spine is unnaturally curved, the sciatic nerve is exposed to uneven pressure and can cause pain felt in the buttocks, down the back of the leg, and into the foot.
So while sciatica is a separate symptom, how to relieve scoliosis-related leg pain is by treating scoliosis itself, and not just addressing its symptoms.
In addition to the uneven forces of the condition causing back and radicular pain, another very-real type of scoliosis pain is related to muscle strain and imbalance.
How do I Treat Muscle Spasms from Scoliosis?
When it comes to how scoliosis affects muscles, we’re talking about overuse, strain, and muscle imbalance.
It’s not just the spine that’s in charge of maintaining its natural curves and alignment, but also the spine’s surrounding muscles that provide it with essential support and stabilization.
As the muscles that surround the spine struggle to support an unnaturally-curved spine, they are overused on one side and underused on the other; what happens is muscles on one side of the spine become tight, sore, and strained, while muscles on the other side become weak.
So muscles on one side of the spine are in need of stretching, while muscles on the other side need to be strengthened.
Scoliosis also affects the muscles in terms of postural deviation. Remember, the main symptom of scoliosis in children and adolescents is a disruption to the body’s overall symmetry, and this affects the muscles in the area experiencing the change.
While many patients want to know “how do I treat muscle spasms from scoliosis,” the answer will be case specific and guided by the classification points mentioned earlier.
The best way to address condition-related muscle pain is to treat its underlying cause: the uneven forces of the condition itself.
How is Muscle Tension from Scoliosis Treated?
Muscle tension related to scoliosis is from sore, strained, and unbalanced muscles, so the best way to address it is by treating the underlying condition itself: the scoliosis.
Here at the Scoliosis Reduction Center, I believe in the merits of proactive treatment that provides symptom relief by impacting the condition on every level.
As a structural condition, scoliosis has to, first and foremost, be impacted on a structural level; this is accomplished in the form of a curvature reduction.
As it’s the unnatural spinal curve that’s introducing the uneven forces to the body that are responsible for postural deviation and muscle strain, reducing the size of the curve also reduces the condition’s severity and uneven forces.
As a curvature is reduced on a structural level, a related postural deviation is also addressed, and the muscles surrounding the spine become less strained as more of the spine’s healthy curves are restored, improving the spine’s overall biomechanics and function.
So muscle tension from scoliosis is treated by applying condition-specific chiropractic care (a variety of techniques and manual adjustments) to adjust the position of the curve’s most-tilted vertebrae back into alignment with the rest of the spine.
In addition, physical therapy and a variety of scoliosis-specific exercises (SSEs) and stretches can be used to increase core strength, so the spine is optimally supported by its surrounding muscles, tight muscles are stretched, weak muscles are strengthened, and muscle imbalance is addressed.
So how long does scoliosis pain last? Again, the answer will be case-specific, but in general, scoliosis pain will last until the condition is proactively treated and impacted on a structural level.
The best way to address scoliosis back and muscle pain is by, first and foremost, reducing the unnatural spinal curve, as this will reduce the condition’s uneven forces and improve spinal biomechanics.
Also, increasing core strength is key to reducing scoliosis pain, particularly muscle pain, as the muscles that support the spine become stronger, less strained, and targeting muscles that have become weak to restore muscle imbalance is an important facet of treatment.
When it comes to scoliosis pain, what one patient experiences is not indicative of what another will face, but with progression comes increasing condition severity, escalating symptoms, and for those whose scoliosis is painful, increasing levels of pain; the best remedy for any condition-related pain is proactive treatment started as close to the time of diagnosis as possible.