View Full Version : Perhaps being young gives you an advantage

06-26-2005, 06:25 AM
I think that being young and diagnosed early may give one an advantage in taking steps early to correct or reduce the severity of a curve. For what it's worth, have a look at the article I've written just now in one of the other forums. It's my hope that it may give you some insight, and perhaps even revolutionize our perspective and also our treatments of scoliosis.

Article: I'm discouraged about the lack of progress on scoliosis treatments

Part 1

I'm a 26 year old male that was diagnosed with a 20 degree curve in highschool. I don't know if it's progressed or not, but if it has, it hasn't by much. Having lived with this condition it is a subject close to my heart.

I'm saddened by the lack of developments and treatments for scoliosis. It seems to me that the medical community has been and continues to approach many mild and medium forms of idiopathic scoliosis the wrong way.

The only mystery about "idiopathic" scoliosis is the specific reason why it initiates or begins. But there are essentially only two things to look at once it has already begun and focusing on one over the other is inappropriate. The areas that need attention are the spine and the muscles around the spine. If a spine is curved it is curved either because the spinal cord has for one reason or another begun to rotate and/or because the muscles around the spine are uneven in strength, thus pulling the spine in abnormal directions.

One thing to look at is the spine itself. Is the spine strong or weak. Has the spine developed properly except that it has rotated and begun to curve. Are the discs within the spine equal in strength and size. If one can determine that all things are fine except that the spine has begun to rotate, then we must look at another feature of the back that will influence spine curves. And let me just say that there is no such thing as a 'compensatory' curve. If you have a curve in your spine, it is a curve that may weave in and out and so long as the curve exists there is nothing compensatory about it.

The second area of study should be focused on muscles around the spine. A spine may begin to curve because the spine is weak, but it may only do so if the muscles in the back allow for it. If the muscles in the back are evenly distributed, even a weak back may stay straight. However, if the muscles in the back are stronger on one side over another, it will encourage curvature in a weak spine. Again, there is no such thing as 'compensatory' muscles in a curved spine. The muscles (the shorter, stronger mucles) on each side of the spine that are distributed unevenly are the muscles helping to increase the curve in the spine, not to compensate for it. Compensatory muscle development would be muscles that develop in precisely the same area of the spine opposite to the overzealous muscles on the other side. This does not happen. When the muscles are pulled toward the right on the top portion of the spine, we see increased muscle development in the lower left portion of the spine. What we want to see is increased muslce development on the top left portion of the spine to bring the spine back into alignment. Anything short of this type of muscle development is not compensatory. It is in fact almost gauranteed to increase the spine curve rather than compensate for it. We need studies on the muscles in the backs of scoliosis patients. Are muscles of the spine all created equal or do some have intrinsic properties that make them more aggressive when pulling the spine. Can these muscles be cut away and/or transfered to the areas with weak muscles. Can this muscle be encouraged to grow in sections that lack it to begin to truly compensate a curve. We know that in people with oversized hearts (the heart is a muscle) that doctors can literally cut off chunks of the heart and bring it down to size, and the heart remains in tact and functioning optimally. Perhaps the same can be done for much less potentially fatal muscles such as those of the spine.

I think the relationship of muscles and the spine in scoliosis patients was best described by somebody else who's article I read some years ago:

To think about it logically, I compare my spine to a tent pole and my muscles to tethers around the tent pole helping it to stay upright. If I had a tethered tent pole that was leaning to one side and I wanted to straighten it, I would pull tighter on some of the tethers and loosen up on others. If I applied equal force to all of the tethers on a pole that was unbalanced to start out, it would remain unbalanced. It was the same with my body. I had to loosen up the tight muscles (tethers) and tighten up the weak muscles (tethers) supporting my spine (my center pole).

In order to straighten out my body, I had to start thinking about it like an engineer would think about straightening a tilting column. The prevailing medical view about scoliosis seems to be that it is caused by some mysterious, as of yet undiscovered gene. Besides being unproven, I don't think this view takes into account gravity and the laws of physics. People's spinal columns are not exempt from the same laws of physics as other columns.

In thinking about my scoliosis from an engineering point of view, the first thing I did was to make make sure my spine (the column) itself was strong and stable. I think the reason there is such a strong link between osteopenia/osteoporosis and scoliosis is simply that weakened columns have more of a problem staying upright. A spine with lowered bone densities is probably less likely to be able to support its weight and stay upright, and hence will bend, buckle and curve as it tries to bear weight. This is exactly why people with rickets get scoliosis.

Another area to think about is that any small pull or unbalanced force placed on a column over a period of time is going to pull the column off center.

To summarize the following points thus far, there are two areas of idiopathic scoliosis that we can say influence spinal curvature. The spine and the muscles around the spine. If the bones of the spine have developed properly (there are no malformed vertebrea) but the spine has begun to twist, we can conclude that it has to do with either the spine strength or the muscles around the spine. Additionally we have to re-orient the ways that we describe the curves and muscles we see in scoliosis patients. By saying compensatory this and compensatory that we give the impression that the spine is trying to self correct the problem. It is not. It is furthering the problem. Intervention needs to correct the problem.

Now on to treatments of medium and mild idiopathic scloliosis. It seems to me that it is in the treatments that we see the lack of focus on the two essential elements of spinal curves that I outlined above. For example, scoliosis surgery appears to always only focus on the spine without any regard for the muscles around the spine. We fuse sections of the spine together, or we brace sections of the spine using rods, and so forth. While this is fine, we could also try working with the muscles around the spine. If muscles are much shorter on on side and/or stronger on one side of a curved spine, why not remove some of it or extend it - stretch it - or attempt to attach it to the alternate side of the spine. Removing some of this over grown muscle tissue may give the spine the mobility that it needs to shift it's way back into normal alignment. While there may be difficulty in manipulating muscles around the spine, I believe that it is essential to 'curing' or correcting scoliosis. Even if a brace could theoretically straighten the spine when it's being worn, the spine would resort back to the curved state once the brace was removed because nothing has been done to the back muscles. The back muscles are still disproportionate and one you remove the brace keeping the spine aligned, the muscles would begin to twist and pull it out of alignment again. Therefore braces are only a temporary fixture. A brace cannot and will not correct the curve and it cannot and will not stop curve progression. Why have doctors in this area not been able to reach this conclusion by simple observation and common sense thinking, I do not know.

Yoga and other excercises may be fine because they ensure that the back remains mobile and elastic however, they will never cure or help the actual scoliosis. Weight lifting, using specific weight training as to work out under developed spine muscles instead of already over zealous spine muscles can also help. However, scoliosis requires very specific focus on spine muscles. When you work out or do yoga, you are working out multiple muscles even when you want to work out only a handful. Most importantly with weight lifting, one must be careful that they understand the excercise they are doing is combating rather than aggravating the scoliosis by strengthening the already over bearing muscles. Because of the nature of scoliosis, all excercises that a person can do must be assisted by surgery that can reduce the uneven distribution of muscle tissue and slowly allow the spine to regain it's natural vertical shape.

06-26-2005, 06:25 AM
Part 2

Things like sleep patterns, sports bags, and daily physical routines must also be taken into consideration. When I was younger, I would always sleep with my body in a certain configuration. It felt comfortable this way, and incidentally, my spine developed a curve that is reminiscient of the configuration my body had when I slept. Did my sleeping pattern cause the scoliosis or did I feel more comfortable sleeping this way because I already had developed scoliosis all those years ago and didn't know it? I don't know, however in the years after I found out, I begin sleeping in the opposite configuration. One spends many hours of their lives sleeping so trying to 'correct' or brace the curve naturally this way is something I've tried. To this day I know it would be more comfortable resorting back to the previous configuration.

I also used to carry sports bags with one strap so that the weight was unequally distributed across my back. I would suggest using a normal double strapped bag. I also began working out in 8th grade, probably too young because the spine is still developing. Any mistakes or overworked back muscles that are not noticeable at that stage may be magnified over time in the form of scoliosis. The same goes for activities such as basketball where you essentially use one half of your body differently repeatedly over the other half. When you throw the basketball using proper form, you're excercising your throwing arm more than your aiming arm and this repeated action may also mean that you're developing certain back muscles more than others.

In short, compensatory behavior is recommended. If you're used to sleeping in a specific way, sleep the opposite way. If you carry your wallet in one back pocket begin carrying it in the other. If you open doors with one hand, begin to always use the other instead to open doors. We could probably learn much from people who can write and play sports using both hands by studying their muscle development.

To summarize all points made, we have to begin taking the mystery out of most idiopathic scoliosis conditions. Common sense will tell us that a curved spine is that way because of the spine or the spine muscles and most likely an interaction between the two. Therefore any corrective effort should and must effectively take into consideration both in order to find an everlasting solution. Our piece meal approach that too often focuses on one over the other, or over emphasizes ineffective solutions such as yoga, have led the medical community to an impasse and there will be no breakthrough until these lines of thinking are dramatically changed. Perhaps it will take more peole suffering from the condition to propose these different approaches because living with it gives one intimate knowledge about it. If we continue to tread the current path, you and your children (who may be prone to mild scoliosis) will continue to suffer life long discomfort and even pain without any hope for solution.

07-02-2005, 12:03 AM

I am BRAND new to the entire arena of scoliosis as my oldest son, who is 9, was just diagnosed 2 weeks ago. He has a 13-degree curve, but has sent me into panic mode because of what could happen knowing he is completely obsessed with physical activity. He has been throwing the football and baseball as long as I can remember and the thought just occurred to me literally a couple hours before reading your thread that could it be this mild (?) curve developed becuase of his throwing motion with his right arm only???

Also, in giving thought to physical therapy, weight training, etc. to help correct or reduce his curve, how would I go about finding out what kind of exercises to do with him?? I certinly don't want to do ore harm than good.

Thanks for your post - it was very informative. Any thoughts on my post would be greatly appreciated.