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 as much as you can about the condition.
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 suffering from 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, which can lead 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’re already starting to suffer problems from scoliosis.
What are some of these problems?
Pain is the major problem associated with scoliosis. This pain can be constant, or intermittent; it can be moderate or severe. The biggest risk for adult patients is degeneration that develops due to scoliosis. Since scoliosis changes the alignment of the body, 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.
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 pain in the legs or buttocks. These pains, which can also manifest as shaking or trouble with balance, are usually caused from 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 the problems associated with it. A worsening curve can cause adult patients to struggle with their balance, since the body’s equilibrium is thrown off. It can also cause a patient to lose height.
In extreme cases, when the curve approaches 70 degrees or greater, patients can suffer physical deformities. Such large curves can also cause pressure on the lungs, heart, and abdomen, leading to trouble breathing, fatigue, or early satiety, where the patient feels full after eating only a small amount of food due to their stomach being compressed.
Some of 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 the 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?
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 will suggest bracing, but wearing a cumbersome brace for 23 hours a day is not only uncomfortable, but is 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, and these muscles then exerting 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 like 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 right 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 intended to utilize “auto 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 certain 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 own 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 right information, and then get in touch with ScoliSMART today!