Being diagnosed – or having a child who is diagnosed – with idiopathic scoliosis can be a disconcerting, even scary, experience. After the diagnosis, you’ll be faced with lots of questions, and you’ll be uncertain about the future. What steps should you take? What steps should you avoid?
1) Find a Team You Can Trust
Though a GP or family doctor is important, for a specific medical condition like scoliosis, you’re going to want to see a specialist. To ensure that you can properly manage your or your child’s scoliosis, you want doctors who have spent their careers devoted to spinal health, who are up on the most recent research, and who are committed to helping you develop a plan that is specific to you and your condition. No two curves are alike, and your treatment plan should attest to that. The right doctor will help you realize that plan – so take your time to make sure you find the right doctor.
2) Get Informed – Don’t Make Impulsive Decisions
Once you’ve found a team you trust, you don’t want to rush into any decisions, especially about big procedures like spinal fusion surgery. When faced with an uncertain medical condition, many people have a strong impulse to do something as soon as possible. Unfortunately, rash action is rarely the best action. In an overwhelming majority of scoliosis cases, there is not an immediate and serious risk to the patient’s health. As such, you should take a bit of time to learn more about your specific curve and the treatment options available to you. Although there are some cases that are high risk and I don’t recommend waiting more than a few weeks to move forward. More likely than not, the most dramatic course of action will not be your best option. For mild and moderate curves, surgery should be an absolute last resort (if your doctor tells you otherwise, find a new doctor!). It’s an expensive, invasive procedure, and it has low rates of success 20 years post-op. Intensive, focused noninvasive treatment has a much better track record of success when it comes to controlling scoliosis. Make sure you’ve explored every option before making any decisions – especially about invasive surgeries.
3) Ask Questions
Once you’ve considered your options and have started developing a treatment plan, ask your noninvasive scoliosis treatment doctor about what positive lifestyle changes you can begin making right away. Integrative doctors are increasingly looking at health through the lens of integrated medicine, which views the body as a series of interconnected systems. When something happens in the spine, it affects – and is affected by – the brain, the central nervous system, and even the digestive system. Integrative doctors no longer view spinal problems as isolated problems; they have to be treated comprehensively.
4) Make Positive Lifestyle Changes on Your Own
Even before choosing what course of treatment you want to seek, you can start making positive changes that will improve your odds of controlling your scoliosis. Eating a balanced diet – especially one rich in amino acids (which the body converts to neurotransmitters) – will not only keep your major systems healthy, but will improve the communication between your brain and the rest of your body. Research suggests that a lack of neurotransmitters balance, which function as the body’s traffic guards, might lead to miscommunications between the brain and the muscles around the spine, contributing to scoliosis. You can get a jump on your treatment by correcting your body’s neurotransmitters imbalances and clearing the communication pathways between your brain and back.
Many people think you can’t exercise if you’ve been diagnosed with scoliosis, but the truth is just the opposite – if you have scoliosis, you should exercise! Gentle exercise keeps the back muscles loose and the body healthy. If you were an active person before your scoliosis diagnosis, unless your doctor explicitly cautions otherwise, you should remain an active person after your diagnosis.
Lastly, if you’re a smoker, you should quit – for many reasons, but also because smoking has been linked to back and spine problems.
Making these relatively simple, minor lifestyle changes will improve the success rate of whatever treatment option you ultimately choose.
Being diagnosed with any medical condition is a jarring experience. Thankfully, idiopathic scoliosis doesn’t need to upend your life. With very few exceptions, scoliosis can be managed through a combination of awareness, lifestyle changes, and focused noninvasive treatment.
If you’re diagnosed with scoliosis, don’t panic or overreact. Take your time to choose the right team of specialists. Go over your options with them and your family, and after a period of careful deliberation, choose the treatment plan that works best for you and your lifestyle. In the meantime, simple changes to your diet and exercise habits will lay the foundation for a healthy life, free of any complications from scoliosis.