5 Myths about Scoliosis

graphic of scoliosis and abnormal curve of the spine

As I have been treating scoliosis over the past year at Utah Scoliosis Therapy, I have noticed many myths surrounding this condition and the effect it has on life.  One of the driving factors is the fact that, in most cases, we still do not know what causes it.  Here are a few of the myths I have encountered.

  1. Scoliosis is Preventable:
    • As I see kids with scoliosis and talk to their parents, one of the concerns is if something could have prevented the development of the curve, or even that something they did caused the curve to form. This is definitely not true, and in the vast majority of cases, scoliosis is idiopathic, meaning there is no specific cause.There are things that can prevent the curve from progressing, but as far as preventing it from happening all together, it is not possible.
  1. Wearing a heavy backpack, or a school bag on one shoulder can cause scoliosis.
    • Again, as in the myth above, we do not know the cause of the majority of cases, and wearing a heavy backpack is no exception. Wearing a bag or backpack, even loaded more on one side, cannot cause you to develop a scoliosis curve.

A heavy backpack, or loading one shoulder more than the other can definitely cause back pain in adolescents, and this can be addressed fairly easily.  With kids that have scoliosis, I will modify how they are carrying their backpack to minimize this causing a progression of their curve.

SCOLIOSIS

  1. Strengthening can FIX scoliosis
    • The main goal of Scoliosis Specific Exercise is to reduce the scoliosis posture. I do not, and will never, claim that the exercises FIX the curve. Nothing can return the spine to normal once it curves, at least that we know of currently.  Surgery is the only thing that can “straighten” the curve, but even that doesn’t return the spine to normal because the spine is then fused.Strengthening with specific exercise can help to improve the posture of scoliosis, decrease pain, and rebalance muscles that are asymmetric.  It can also help to slow or halt the progression of the curve in adolescents.  One of the main things it also does is improve the quality of life in adolescents and adults, and gives them some control of their curve.
  2. “Wait and see” is all you can do for scoliosis.
    • False! There are many things that can be done for scoliosis!  As discussed above, nothing can FIX the curve, but specific exercise, massage, posture training, education, and being active can all help reduce the effects of scoliosis on your life.I have seen education alone be very beneficial to patients and their families, and adding specific exercise with that education empowers them to take control of their health rather than just wait and see what it does to them.  Doing something for their curve gives them a way to take back that control!
  3. If you have scoliosis you will end up deformed later in life.
    • One of the first things people do when they are diagnosed with scoliosis is go on the internet and Google scoliosis. I feel it is great to be informed about your diagnosis, but the problem is this brings up all types of information and images of severe scoliosis.  Only a small percentage of those with scoliosis will develop to that level.With that said, we still do not know who will progress in severity and who will not.  There are some things that increase risk of progression such as age at onset and how big the curve is at diagnosis, but even with these we are still struggling to identify people who will have a progression of their curve.

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Scoliosis has become one of my passions, and I am excited to continue working with this population long term.  With our scoliosis program, I hope to bring valuable services to this underserved part of our community.  If you have any questions about scoliosis I would love to hear them, or you can visit our NEW WEBSITE at www.utahscoliosistherapy.com.  Email me at [email protected] !

I have also written up a FREE Report answering the top 6 scoliosis questions I get every day. Click HERE to download your copy!

David Butler, Physical Therapist