Fact: Your spine is, to some extent, curved. But do not fret! Nobody’s backbone is perfectly straight. However, if you have these symptoms – the tendency to lean on one side, unbalanced shoulders, and/or uneven hips, waist or legs – you might have scoliosis. Other more obvious symptoms are back aches and breathlessness.
What is Scoliosis?
It is a condition where the spine is curved either in a C or S shape, and affects about 4% of the population. Though everyone’s spine is curved to a certain extent, it is only considered scoliosis if the angle of the curve is 10 degrees or more. If you suspect you have scoliosis, a trip to the doctor and a simple x-ray scan will let you know for sure.
What Causes Scoliosis?
About 80 per cent of scoliosis cases are idiopathic, which means that there is no known cause. There are two types of scoliosis – structural and non-structural. Structural scoliosis can be caused by inflammation like appendicitis, which after treatment will go away. Non-structural is the curvature of the spine, and if undetected at birth, usually develops when the patient is between 10 to 15 years old. There are some cases where scoliosis has underlying medical conditions. For example, it can be caused by genetic disorders like Marfan Syndrome, which is a defect or mutation in the genes that affects the body’s connective tissues.
So you’ve just been told by the doctors that you have scoliosis, now what?
Dealing with Scoliosis
The good news is that 90 per cent of scoliosis cases are mild and do not require major treatment. In certain cases, a back brace would do if the patient is a child, as the spine is still growing. However, those with severe curves of greater that 50 degrees would need surgery to prevent deterioration and to ease the discomforts. Do check with your doctor if you simply need a brace or (hopefully not) require surgery!
Though life with scoliosis can come with a few challenges, here are five methods that can make it more bearable.
One of the challenges that people with scoliosis is that sleep is affected, as scoliosis patients experience shortness of breath. With a normal pillow, there is unnecessary tension in the neck, and falling asleep would become a chore. With such discomforts when you sleep, you could be counting up to a thousand sheep and still not be able to rest well. A method that you can try is to use donut-shaped pillows. This supports your spine and at the same time, provide the support your neck needs!
If you tend to be a side sleeper, supporting the neck should be your topmost priority. During sleep, your head has to be parallel to your bed, so your pillow has to be thick enough. You can also use a pillow between your knees to further cushion and support your body for its beauty sleep.
Stretching relieves back aches and headaches, a common problem that scoliosis patients face. This is usually caused by tight neck muscles, which can lead to migraines. Where does the pain originate though? It can be musculoskeletal pain, which is caused when muscles are overworked. The pain can also be experienced by those with degenerative scoliosis. The body fails to hold itself up because the spinal disc(s) deteriorates. This causes the nerves to be affected and sharp pain or numbness can be felt in the lower back or neck.
To strengthen those weaker muscles and relax the overworked ones, a stretch that you can do is called the child’s pose. This can be done easily in five steps. Kneel, and push hips down. Reach your arms forward with hands laid flat, and breathe!
3. Chiropractic Treatments!
Apart from using a corrective brace during adolescent years, chiropractic treatments can strengthen joints and even muscles. With a stronger body, you will face less pain, and will feel more comfort. It is common for adults to feel insecure due to having to wear a brace in his/her teenage years, hence visiting the chiropractor can help the patient feel more confident in the way he/she looks.
Diet is important to scoliosis patients, as a poor diet may lead to unnecessary inflammations in your body. This might lead to aches and even worsening of the condition over time. For scoliosis patients, the goal is to strengthen the body so that there are lesser chances of getting inflammation. Foods that you can eat include: high-fibre vegetables, probiotic foods such as yogurt and kombucha, and anti-inflammatory teas like turmeric and ginger tea. Avoid taking pasteurised dairy products as they consist of hormones that can contribute to inflammation. Basically, by improving your immune system, you can lower the chances of inflammation, which leads to fewer back and neck aches.
5. Work out!
If you are an outdoor lover who likes to exercise, sports such as swimming, hiking, and dancing can benefit you. Even doing simple stretching or yoga movements at home can greatly alleviate your aches, as movements send nutrients to the spine. But if you are like me, the type of person who just wants to sprawl across the bed, applying warm compression can soothe your aching body.
Min Yen Yap
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