By: Dr. Aatif Siddiqui

About 2% of the population suffers from scoliosis, which means millions of Americans are battling this potentially serious condition. And yet, not much is generally known about scoliosis. Few people know the long-term problems scoliosis can cause for your health – or how to fix those problems. At ScoliSMART, we believe that the first step in treating scoliosis is information. Before you can make a sound decision about your treatment options, you have to understand the condition as much as you can.

The effects of scoliosis accumulate over time, which means that when a patient is first diagnosed, often in childhood, the immediate problems are usually minimal. A child who has scoliosis will likely not have any pain. But as a patient develops and goes through puberty, if the spinal curvature grows, it can begin causing developmental problems, leading to serious consequences.

Unfortunately, most doctors have approached scoliosis with a “wait and see” attitude. This reactive approach means that many patients don’t start receiving treatment until they already have scoliosis.

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Scoliosis and Pain

Scoliosis side effects

Pain is the major problem associated with adult scoliosis. This pain can be constant or intermittent, moderate or severe. The biggest risk for adult patients is degeneration that develops due to scoliosis. Since scoliosis changes the body’s alignment, it often leads to degeneration and pain in the hips. As with most forms of degeneration, this pain will only get worse as the patient gets older. Get recommendations on living your best life with scoliosis sent to your email.

Hip pain isn’t the only form of pain associated with scoliosis. If the curvature is causing stress to occur on spinal discs, nerves, muscles, or ligaments, it can lead to back pain and sciatic type pain.

More common is a pain in the legs or buttocks. These pains, which can also manifest as shaking or trouble with balance, are usually caused by compressed nerves due to the way the body gradually contorts as the curvature worsens.

If a curve is left untreated, it can become quite severe as a patient gets older; the more severe a curve, the more serious its problems are. A worsening curve can cause adult patients to struggle with balance since the body’s equilibrium is thrown off. It can also cause a patient to lose height.

When the curve approaches 70 degrees or greater, patients can suffer physical deformities in extreme cases. Such large curves can also cause pressure on the lungs, heart, and abdomen, leading to trouble breathing, fatigue, or early satiety. The patient feels full after eating only a small amount of food due to their stomach being compressed.

These scenarios are unlikely, as few curves will reach 70 degrees. But for many patients, that’s because the treatment they undergo will be spinal fusion surgery, which uses rods and bone grafts to “fuse” parts of the spine together. In theory, this prevents the curvature from growing. But in actuality, spinal fusion surgery has a more than 50% failure rate after 20 years. And even if the surgery doesn’t fail, it is expensive, invasive, and painful – and it still won’t lessen the curve. Patients who undergo surgery will have limited mobility and may suffer bouts of pain for the rest of their life.

Of course, even if patients don’t undergo surgery, they’re still likely, at some point, to suffer pain or complications from scoliosis, especially if they’ve taken a “wait and see” approach to treatment. What, then, is the best way to avoid these problems and complications?

Life with Scoliosis: The Social and Emotional Aspects

For many, scoliosis will be a lifelong journey, but physically and emotionally. The scoliosis genetics that helps create the condition never goes away and often manifests in neurotransmitter and hormone problems. This is why depression and anxiety are common among scoliosis patients as well. Both of these are widespread effects of scoliosis on the body. These are some of the unseen scoliosis side effects and consequences of scoliosis.

At ScoliSMART, we believe patients should be proactive in their treatment plans. Instead of “waiting and seeing,” once a patient – whether a child or an adult – is diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis, they should begin the course of treatment they deem best. Some traditional doctors suggest bracing, but wearing a cumbersome brace for 23 hours a day is uncomfortable and often a precursor to surgery. Bracing doesn’t treat scoliosis at its root.

Our approach is less painful and is the only current treatment plan intended to address the causes of scoliosis, not the symptoms. Not coincidentally, it’s also the only scoliosis treatment option that can stop a curvature from growing – and can even reverse curves. While no one is 100% sure why idiopathic scoliosis forms, there are root causes – a miscommunication between the brain and the muscles around the spine. These muscles then exert unnecessary pressure on the spine – that can be treated.

While bracing just tries to control the curve by brute force, ScoliSMART’s innovative approach tries to retrain the brain that controls the muscles around the spine to “hold” the spine in a proper way. This process is multifaceted, and it begins by clearing the neural pathways between the brain and the muscles around the spine. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that act as police officers, keeping these pathways clear. If a patient’s neurotransmitters aren’t balanced, it’s possible the brain isn’t getting the right messages out to the body. Our treatment plan begins by developing the proper diet for each patient, balancing their neurotransmitters, and clearing their neural pathways.

Once the brain can communicate clearly with the muscles around the spine, patients begin a unique and specific regimen of exercises that utilize. Long-term “reflexive response training” to retrain these muscles. These exercises are not physically difficult or painful, but they must be performed on a strict schedule to be effective. If done correctly, they will teach the back muscles to “hold” themselves differently – the same way our body adjusts to specific new, repeated movements.

The last piece of the ScoliSMART treatment plan is the Scoliosis Activity Suit. It’s not a brace but a suit that moves with your body, accentuating the effectiveness of the exercises and enabling your muscles to gradually and naturally readjust your spine.

If scoliosis is treated proactively, it’s possible to avoid the worst consequences. With noninvasive exercises that use the body’s strength, ScoliSMART’s treatment plan is designed to stop curve progression – and thus stop any pain and deformities that develop from a severe curve. They will also make surgery – which is invasive, expensive, and ineffective – unnecessary. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis, don’t wait and see – get the correct information, and then get in touch with ScoliSMART today!

Other Consequences of Scoliosis

Treating scoliosis’s financial and insurance inequality is rarely discussed and never addressed. Parents and patients often mistake the “standard of care” as the gold standard for treatment when it is merely the minimum legal requirement of care. The highest level of scoliosis treatments (nonsurgical scoliosis treatment for adults and anterior scoliosis correction surgery and VBT surgery for scoliosis costs) are beyond reach for many without insurance coverage). Correcting scoliosis in adults, whether anterior tethering scoliosis procedures or non-invasive options like the ScoliSMART Activity Suit, should be considered for equal insurance coverage to provide the best, not the minimum, standard of care options for patients.

Additional Read – Scoliosis, and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know