A majority of the population experiences back pain in one form or another. It is a very common problem and those with scoliosis are often the recipients of back pain. Some people with scoliosis don’t have pain or it is not a major issue. However, for those with Scoliosis pain, it can affect the quality of their lives and their families.
When back pain strikes, it makes it impossible to stay as active as you would like. Most back pain sufferers must give up their fitness routines and daily activities that keep their spine strong and in shape. They also miss out on family vacations and other group activities, because they are in so much pain. Recent research has shown that chronic back pain causes a decrease in your “happy hormone,” serotonin. So if back pain has you feeling down, you’re not alone. And we can help you fix that.
Causes of Pain
There are many reasons why a person’s scoliosis causes so much pain. The actual site of the pain depends on the type of scoliosis the person has. The curve of the spine can irritate, and stretch nerves, muscles, tendons, and organs. Then posture becomes affected and other parts of the body do not function correctly. Muscles then begin to spasm and it’s a slow but steady decline in the way one feels. Sometimes, the pain will shoot down a leg or two, causing sciatica instability while walking.
But there is more. Much of the pain of adult scoliosis comes from the discs in the spine. These shock absorber-like body parts can press up against nerves, or if they are ruptured, they can cause the vertebra to rub together and pain becomes prevalent.
Conditions that cause scoliosis pain include:
- Disc generation in the upper spine, middle spine, or lower spine
- Laterolisthesis (ligament looseness in the spinal joint and pelvic joint)
- Disc bulges
- Spine fractures
- Inflammation of the sacroiliac joints that connect the pelvis and lower spine
- Postural strain
- Deterioration of facet joints
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Pain management has undergone huge research in the past decade – especially for those with Scoliosis. We have participated in research studies and worked to understand its genesis and how it can change one’s life. Some pain is instantaneous, and in other situations, it slowly appears and before you know it, you have so much pain you can hardly get through the day. It is interesting to note that some people experience little or no pain with adult scoliosis, yet others have so much pain, that it is hard for them to sleep and attend to daily activities. We know the pain and we can help.
Scoliosis in Adults
Although scoliosis is not common in adolescents, adults also suffer from it. While there are instances where adults develop scoliosis, most of the cases were not diagnosed and aged with the condition remaining untreated into adulthood.
Most scoliosis in adults has traumatic, degenerative, or pathological causes. Irrespective of the cause, once there is scoliosis, adults can deal with pain from scoliosis better than adolescents.
Since adults have stopped growing, the curve in the spine compresses the spine and the surrounding tissues and nerves. This causes lots of pain and discomfort. Adult patients usually experience pain in other areas apart from the back, like the knees, feet, neck, legs, and hips. The condition can also cause headaches. These are a result of spinal misalignment in the lower body.
The goal of scoliosis treatment in adults is to return the adults’ curvatures to their natural curve and position. The reduction in the curve should give relief from discomfort and pain. In most cases, scoliosis pain increases as the patients grow older.
Types of Pain Caused by Scoliosis
Pain is one of the major symptoms of scoliosis and it can come from different areas of the body. It is important to know how the symptoms of scoliosis occur in the body to understand the appropriate treatment to provide.
Here are the types of pain that scoliosis causes:
Head and neck pain
People with scoliosis usually experience chronic headaches, which are usually a result of tension in the neck muscles. Muscle tension and spinal misalignment occur in the neck as a result of a forward head posture. This tension can cause pain in the base of the skull, thereby leading to all forms of headaches like migraines, tension-type headaches, and cluster headaches.
The muscles and ligaments in the shoulders can also become affected by scoliosis. Shoulder pain is usually felt in the side of the body where the spine curves away. The pain is felt because the body tries to pull the spine back into place.
Thoracic (upper back) pain
Most adults with scoliosis end up having a hunched posture (i.e. kyphosis); this is the major cause of the pain. Osteoporosis can also become associated with scoliosis. If it is severe, it can cause fractures and dislocations in the spine.
Lumbar (lower back) pain
Lumbar pain is one of the main complaints that adolescents and adults with scoliosis complain of (even those with milder scoliosis have this pain). Older adults usually experience more significant degenerative disc disease; a condition that damages the ligaments holding the spine in place. This leads to more severe pain in the lower back
In some cases, patients with scoliosis notice that one of their hips appears higher than the other. This is usually more prominent than the actual spinal curvature. This can cause hip pain and discomfort after standing or walking for long.
Sciatic nerve pain
Sciatic nerve pain is caused by a combination of the misalignment of the spine and arthritis. This can lead to leg pain. These conditions can lead to a narrowing of the joints of the spine that nerves pass through.
Patients that undergo surgery have a high chance of experiencing post-surgical pain. During recovery, the patient may experience short-term discomfort. If there are complications, the patient may experience severe and long-term discomfort.
In rare situations, surgeons may perform an osteotomy to either reduce or increase the length of the patient’s leg. Recovery from osteotomy can take several months.
Scoliosis Pain Management Treatment
Depending on the type of pain, there are treatments called complementary therapies that might help, in addition to pain medication. These include things like hydrotherapy and massage and are usually done alongside medical treatments.
An exercise that strengthens the core muscles (the back and stomach muscles that support the spine) such as yoga, Pilates, stretching, and swimming can also help with back pain.
Medical Treatments for Scoliosis Pain
The treatment administered for scoliosis pain depends on the type of scoliosis the patient has. The treatment options include the following:
Epidural Steroid Injections Spinal Injections
ESI injections are powerful steroids that are injected into the joint space to help ease pain and inflammation. Injections are used to settle the nerve pain down. Most do not have any proven long-term effect but injections can reduce acute pain or be used as part of a formal pain management program. As a first and conservative treatment option, we’ve found that a lot of our patients find significant pain relief with a single injection, others take a few injections to find some relief. Injections are helpful for most patients, and others do not find relief with an injection series.
Finally, today, many different types of medication can help to relieve pain. Even with a wide range of pain medications, it is not easy to control chronic pain and we will use a combination of treatments along with medication to ease and eliminate pain.
If you or your loved one is suffering from Mild or severe Scoliosis or another complex spine condition, there is hope. We can help. Call Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute at 214-556-0555 to make an appointment today.