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Treating Scoliosis: Top 10 Questions

Remember: If scoliosis is diagnosed, there is no 100% cure. This means your spine won’t be perfectly straight. The good news is that even in the general population most people do not have a perfectly straight spine and there are treatments that can stop the abnormal curvature of the spine from getting worse and reduce and improve it dramatically.

Here are common questions regarding treatments for scoliosis.

Q: If I don’t want surgery, what are some alternative treatments for scoliosis?

A: Alternative treatments include specialized chiropractic care, (standardized chiropractic care can help with pain but not reduction, feldenkrais method, Schroth Exercise Therapy, Yoga, and acupuncture. The last few can improve posture but generally do not reduce scoliosis.

Q: How about yoga or pilates?

A: These two types of exercises are worth considering. Yoga improves a person’s strength through stretching and breathing exercises. Some yoga instructors include meditation. How yoga can eliminate back problems is at best a case-to-case basis (some swear by it, still others say their condition has not improved, and some say they are able to deal and cope better with scoliosis). Yoga can improve a person’s musculoskeletal condition, while not correcting a scoliosis it can work with corrective procedures.

Pilates is a more vigorous routine than yoga and focuses on developing stronger muscles, particular in the abdominals and in the back. However, people with severe back pain must consult a doctor first and must verify the type of pilates training an instructor has.

Q: Will wearing a brace eliminate my scoliosis?

A: Wearing a brace can reduce the size of the curve but only while the brace is being worn. In many cases the curve continues to grow even with a brace on. Once your spine is fully developed and you stop wearing the brace, the scoliosis curve will most likely progress to its original size.

At ‘Breakthrough’ Scoliosis Correction Centers, we are exploring what can be considered a modified form of bracing but worn only for short periods of time.

Q. How does the doctor determine which brace is best suited for my condition?

A: Your doctor will work with an orthotist (a person who designs and creates assistive devices) to determine which type of brace is best for you. The type of brace will depend on the location of the curve in the spine, the flexibility of the curve, the number of curves, the position and rotation of vertebrae and other conditions you may have.

Lifestyle and the kinds of activities you engage in also play a role.

Q: Is there a way or method that will make the spine straight with no deviations?

A: Unfortunately not. Spinal fusion can ‘temporarily’ straighten the spine but at great physical and emotional cost and many long term health problems. Bracing can prevent progression but only while worn and only in mild cases.

Q: How much does spinal fusion cost?

A: It’s an expensive operation to begin with. Costs will vary from state to state, and you should ask if the cost includes hospital stays, temporary devices, and follow-ups. Also, speak to your insurance company. Some cover this type of surgery, but you need to clarify the extent of coverage. In the New England region costs exceed $150,000 for the surgery.

Q: Will there be complications post-surgery?

A: Like many surgeries, possible complications include infection, blood clots, lung problems, pain and bleeding. There may be other complications depending on the person’s general health and other existing illnesses at the time of operation. Speak to your doctor about these complications before agreeing to surgery and make certain you understand the long term potential issues.

Q: What questions should I ask my surgeon?

A: Your questions should include the following: size and location of incision, if a rod or similar implants will be needed, recovery time, length of hospital stay, degree of straightness of the spine after surgery, whether surgery will stunt or promote growth, will the curvature return after time, the likelihood of additional surgeries, patient’s range of motion and ability to perform sports and or other normal tasks after surgery, etc.

Q: My child’s spine is only slightly curved. How often should our doctor check him?

A: If the curve is small, under 15 degrees and is not causing your child any pain or discomfort, you should ask your doctor to monitor him every 3-6 months.

Q: Can my child exercise after a surgical procedure?

A: Yes, but contact sports are not recommended. Your Scoliosis specialist is the best person to tell you when your child can start exercises and the kinds of exercises that are safe for him to do. Find a practitioner that does only scoliosis work to be sure of the best advice.