Scoliosis is the medical term that describes the abnormal twisting and curvature of the spine. It occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty. It affects around three to four children in every 1,000 in the UK and is most typically seen in children between the ages of 10 and 15.
It is also more common amongst females than males.
In 8 out of 10 cases there is no known cause; this is known as idiopathic scoliosis. The majority of the rest of the cases are caused by medical conditions: cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and Marfans syndrome.
Scoliosis may first be noticed by a change in the appearance of a child’s back. Visual symptoms can include:
To establish the severity of the condition we use a state-of-the-art DIERS spinal scanner which provides us with a fast, contactless and radiation-free measurement of the back’s surface and spine.
Mild cases may self-correct as a child grows, though we may also recommend wearing ‘dynamic’ lycra garments which are designed to apply a global compression to the area of the body over which it is worn. In moderate or severe cases, where the child is still growing, a brace may be recommended to prevent the spine from curving further as a child continues to grow.
The general protocol in the UK is that if an x-ray is taken in-brace, a ‘good’ brace should aim to reduce the original curve by 50%.
At LOC, we often refer patients for a rapid low dose scan to confirm the efficiency of our braces following the fitting. This scan is typically performed at the 2-month mark in other braces, and changes are then made to improve the fit of the brace and the correction in the brace. We have found that a rapid scan gives the clinician a very clear indication as to the correction that will be achieved, whilst ensuring no time is wasted (and therefore correction lost) while waiting for this scan.
Whilst it varies from patient to patient, the LOC Scoliosis Brace offers more than 50% skeletal correction. To the extreme, we have seen corrections exceeding 100% (as below) in the LOC Scoliosis Brace, which is why these braces can be termed ‘over-corrective’. In these instances, it is possible to proceed with reduced brace wearing hours, or if full time bracing is still indicated, the brace can be altered. This ‘over-correction’ gives the wearer the greatest chance at skeletal correction. If for any reason, our clinician is not fully satisfied with the skeletal in-brace correction after receiving the x-ray, the brace will be re-modelled and re-made (free of charge) as part of a multi-colleague meeting – this ensures all our patients are in gold standard braces, whilst not losing any possible corrective time in-brace.
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.
We have the following facilities and amenities at our Kingston Upon Thames location:
We also have the Gait Laboratory for orthotics patients and Onsite Manufacturing for speedy turnarounds and adjustments whilst you wait.
We have the following facilities and amenities at our Cambridge location:
For more information about The Beechwood Complementary Medical Practice, please visit The Beechwood Practice.
We have the following facilities and amenities at our Bristol location:
For more information, visit Litfield House Medical Centre.
LOC’s clinic is based in the University of Salford’s Podiatry Department and provides treatments for orthotics, scoliosis, pectus deformities, positional plagiocephaly and club foot.
It is also the base for LOC’s northern OSKAR clinic which is run by Sam Walmsley, clinical director of LOC, in conjunction with Elaine Owen MBE MSc SRP MCSP.
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