Surgical intervention for idiopathic scoliosis dates all the way back to 1865 (France) and resulted in one of the first medical malpractice cases (which later paved the way for the concept of evidence-based medicine). From its controversial beginnings, the discussion has continued on through the decades as newer surgical techniques and hardware became available — with the Harrington rods in the 1960s through the mid 1980s, and the Cortel-Dubousset (C-D) hooks and rods instrumentation as its current predecessor.
Believe it or not, in this day and age of advanced technology and information, “Should I use ice or heat for my scoliosis pain?” is still one of the most common questions our ScoliSMART doctors are asked by their patients. One of the reasons for this is because patients tend to lump all “pain” symptoms into one category, when in fact treating acute pain (recent and short term) and chronic pain (long term and constant) with ice and heat are very different.
Surgical intervention is the greatest fear of parents and patients suffering from the scoliosis condition and should always be a last resort after all non-conservative approaches have been exhausted. Recently, a robust interest in fusionless scoliosis surgery has encouraged progress in the development of a variety of new surgical approaches, innovation, and devices.
Did you know idiopathic scoliosis was first described as a “serpent like disease of the spine” by the Greeks over 3,500 years ago? Fortunately, the “science of scoliosis” has come a long way since then but seems to have plateaued at some point back in the 1970s and 1980s. However, recent breakthroughs in the fundamental nature of idiopathic scoliosis have spurred on new and innovative progress into a more in-depth understanding of the condition.
For decades, bracing and spinal fusion have been only treatment option for scoliosis; however, as a growing body of research sheds new light on this complex condition, patients are increasingly looking for and choosing less invasive options.
Massage therapy, in particular, has gained attention for its ability to reduce the chronic back pain that is sometimes associated with scoliosis. A skilled massage therapist “can use a combination of massage strokes, sustained pressure, positioning, and stretches to help balance the muscles of the back and body” and temporarily alleviate scoliosis symptoms, says massage therapist Jeanne Troncao.
As a teenager, she spent five years in back braces trying to reduce her scoliosis curve. But as soon as the brace came off, the curve started progressing again – growing 10 degrees over the next six years.
By age 25, her curve measured 47 degrees — just shy of the high-risk waterline for rapid progression. To prevent the need for surgery, doctors put her on a regimen of scoliosis exercises and measured her progress over the next several months.
Since the times of the Ancient Greeks, scoliosis has been viewed primarily as a spinal deformity. Because it has been viewed this way for so long, all of the treatments that have ever been created for it are all orthopedic, mechanical, or physical in nature. These efforts are, metaphorically, attempts to put the “toothpaste back into the tube” rather than proactive early stage identification of at-risk patients and preventative intervention.
In today’s world of insurance-driven health care, face time with the actual doctor is becoming more and more limited, and time to ask questions — let alone get an answer — is practically non-existent. It is no wonder the idiopathic scoliosis condition is wrought with confusion and misinformation. While the list of misconceptions regarding idiopathic scoliosis is likely endless, below are six the ScoliSMART doctors feel are important enough to be called out.
Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by a severe decline in bone mineral density.
Osteoporosis affects nearly 1 in 4 adult women over age 65, and 1 in 20 men over age 65 (source). If left untreated, people with osteoporosis can suffer life-threatening spine or hip fractures. For example, the average life expectancy after a senior citizen suffers a hip fracture is 12 months, whether they have surgery to repair/replace the hip or not. Spine and hip fractures can be very painful and debilitating.
A sideways-curving spine is the most troubling aspect of scoliosis, but it is not the real problem. To figure out what actually causes scoliosis, scientists must look beyond the curve.
We now know that spinal curvature stems from a miscommunication between the brain and muscles that support the spine. A child’s postural control centers fail to tell the muscles how to properly respond to gravity, so instead of growing straight the spine becomes curved. But why aren’t those messages being sent? More and more clinical data is pointing toward specific genomic functional variant patterns, which affect neurotransmitter and hormone production/metabolism.