23 April 2021
LOC recently heard from one of our young patients, Beau, who was diagnosed in 2020 with juvenile idiopathic scoliosis. As the Scoliosis Association UK confirms, the term ‘idiopathic’ means that there is no known cause for the condition. The good news, though, is that plenty can be done to improve the curvature of the spine in young people. And, with the right treatment package, surgery can be avoided whilst still achieving great results.
Beau has embraced her treatment programme wholeheartedly. Her positive outlook and ‘can-do’ attitude are inspiring. In fact, she is so thrilled with her results that she wants to be a LOC poster girl for scoliosis bracing – to encourage other young people in her situation to seek similar help. As she so maturely says:
"If you say something is going to be easy it will be easy and if you say something will be hard it will be hard. So, I'm just going to say that wearing my brace is easy. And as it turns out, it really is."
When Beau first attended our Kingston upon Thames clinic, she presented with a thoracic Cobb angle of 43°, which meant she had nearly reached the threshold where surgery is recommended. Our orthotist, Sally Hews, assessed Beau’s spinal curvature and prescribed her a bespoke Gensingen Brace by Dr Weiss – our preferred treatment for scoliosis as it provides three-dimensional, gently corrective pressure that is proven to be highly effective at reducing Cobb angles.
Gensingen bracing is usually combined with a course of Schroth method physiotherapy for the most effective results. This involves a commitment from the patient to perform their exercises regularly. Our physiotherapy treatment for scoliosis is designed on a bespoke basis for each patient, with curve-pattern specific exercises that utilise gravity to improve and maintain spinal alignment through over-correction.
At her latest review, we were delighted to observe in her latest in-brace X-rays that Beau’s posture continues to improve dramatically. We look forward to her next out of brace X-ray which we anticipate will confirm this fantastic progress!
Naturally, Beau’s mum, Jodie, is also thrilled with her progress and with the overall experience, her daughter has had at LOC. "Sally and Debs have helped remove the stress from our situation,” she recently told us. “They have given us hope based on their extensive knowledge and expertise.”
My results are amazing and unexpected, and I am glad that I received the brace through LOC. I am still wearing the brace 18 months later and my back feels even straighter. Thanks to LOC I realised that I wanted to help people with similar if not the same condition as me, so I am now going to Salford University in September to study Orthotics and Prosthetics so I will hopefully be able to help others with Scoliosis as much as LOC has helped me.
If you say something is going to be easy it will be easy and if you say something will be hard it will be hard. So, I'm just going to say that wearing my brace is easy. And as it turns out, it really is.
Sally and Debs have helped remove the stress from our situation. They have given us hope based on their extensive knowledge and expertise.
I had my brace fitted and I was also given a personalised exercise programme to help with my 3D rotation. Not only was I wearing this new brace but I still had my pectus brace on and the amazing orthotists managed to combine the two so they worked together. I really struggled with this at first; however, I kept going and now I’m really glad I did. My scoliosis overcorrected by 10 degrees and I was able to reduce my scoliosis brace wear to 16 hours a day within 6 weeks.
Don’t wait. It’s about the children because they are more likely to be confident in their late teens if you act quickly and support them. We have been lucky because we understand the condition well. That’s one of the main things, to be honest. It was hard work, but it pays off in the end.
I finally found that I had arrived at the right place and something was actually being done.
My pain levels are hugely improved, my ribs were tender and now they are not. My brace was made individually for me. It’s not one size fits all and, if it is not completely perfect, LOC alters it on the spot. I was so surprised that I could wear the brace under my clothes, I did not need to go and buy anything, I just wear loose tops.
The brace is very light. Obviously, the first couple of days we were told it was going to be uncomfortable for her, I bought so many pillows! But although the first night was not very comfortable, the second night she got used to it and then she was wearing it all day long and I thought ‘that’s brilliant!’ She was only taking it off for two or three hours to go out with friends or do the exercises, but she didn’t have any problems really.
Debs and Sally are fantastic. I mean, they’ve become like family now. They are extraordinary people and do such good work with these kids, both of them, it’s fantastic. The whole experience has been very good. They make you feel welcome from the beginning, and you can ask as many questions as you want, and they answer everything. If you have a problem they give you their personal mobile so you can just call them if you have a problem and they’ll solve it straight away. I’m very pleased with the treatment, the people, with everything.
She’s wearing the brace all the time now and she’s doing very well. She’s very good at school too, the brace doesn’t get in the way of anything. It fits underneath her school uniform and you can’t see it. Sometimes I even have to ask her when she’s sitting down if she’s wearing it because I can’t see it! She says ‘of course mummy’ and I say ‘let me try!’ I have to knock through the clothes and only then can I hear she’s wearing the brace!
Obviously, the results speak for themselves. I would definitely credit LOC, but if I were to give any advice [to parents in a similar position] it would be to contact Debs and Sally. Ricarda likes it there, she loves the people like Debs and Sally and felt really comfortable, everything was really relaxed and nice. She worked really hard during training with Debs who kept saying that Ricarda was such a workhorse!
Especially in young people, spotting the early signs of scoliosis is important – as is seeking early treatment. These are the warning signs to look out for:
Or why not watch our short video series from our FAQs? You’ll find all of the most common questions about scoliosis answered by Sally Hews and Deborah Turnbull in their interview with the Academy of Physical Medicine.
If you think your child, adolescent or adult family member has scoliosis, you can contact LOC directly to arrange a consultation at one of our scoliosis clinics.
The operation used to treat severe scoliosis curves is typically spinal fusion surgery; a major procedure that involves moving muscles and realigning the skeleton into place. The curved, deformed vertebrae are fused together into a single bone, putting metal screws and rods into the spine to help straighten it. Surgery typically lasts between 4 and 8 hours depending on the severity of the curve. Bone graft is then taken from other parts of the body and used to cover the implants.
Following the operation, it is necessary to spend around a week in intensive care before returning home and the first few days are often uncomfortable. Most adolescents can expect to return to school from 2-4 weeks following surgery, but pain medication may be required up to 6 weeks following. A full recovery from the procedure can take up to a year, as it can take that long for the spine to heal fully.
Spinal fusion surgery causes the fused portion of the back to become permanently stiff, as a result, returning to sports that require large amounts of flexibility (ballet, yoga, gymnastics, dance) or contact (rugby, football, karate, hockey) may take longer.
Risks of spinal fusion surgery are like that of any other major procedure and include infection, blood clots and anaesthesia complications. The added risks include permanent nerve damage to the spine and paralysis.