Scoliosis is reasonably common disorder that can be anything from a slight problem, to something that has an extremely negative impact on an individual’s life, causing considerable pain and suffering. We’re all born with a natural “S- shape” curve to our spines. However, these curves point to the front and behind of our body. With scoliosis, there is an abnormal curvature and rotation of the spine to either the left or right, along the vertical axis. The word scoliosis is taken from the Greek word, meaning ‘bent’.
When the spine curves, ligaments and other tissues are stretched. This can cause back pain, discomfort and difficulty sitting for long periods of time. Those with scoliosis can also experience referred pain such as headaches, pelvic pain, spasms or even foot problems due to an imbalance of weight and pressure on each foot. Massage therapy can be a wonderful tool for alleviating the symptoms of scoliosis, but shouldn’t be mistaken for a cure or treatment of the condition.
We do not know exactly what causes scoliosis, but there are some known contributors. Environmental factors can be the cause of certain types of scoliosis, and there is a yet to be defined gene which has a strong tendency to be passed down the female side. Scoliosis generally presents itself in childhood or adolescence and, more rarely, in adulthood. When detected in growing children, appropriate treatment can be undertaken to prevent the condition worsening. Unfortunately though, nothing can be done to correct a curvature that is already present. In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary to stabilise the spine permanently.
Types of scoliosis
There are several types of scoliosis, with the most common ones being:
Juvenile Scoliosis – the abnormal curve develops between ages of 2 to 10 years.
Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis – appears in early adolescence and appears more commonly in girls than boys. Minor curvature is reported in both sexes; however, roughly 90% of the more severe cases requiring clinical treatment are in females.
Congenital Scoliosis – this curve develops because of a congenitally abnormal vertebrae. It is often associated with congenital abnormalities found elsewhere in the body, such as in the heart and kidneys.
Neuromuscular Scoliosis – there are many diseases and disorders of our central nervous system, affecting nerves and muscles that can (but not always) result in the development of scoliosis. In some diseases of the muscles and nerves, such as muscular dystrophy, curvature of the spine occurs because the muscles on either side of the spine are weakened.
Paralytic Scoliosis – this type of scoliosis only occurs when the curvature results from the loss of spinal cord function in early life. This can happen through either disease or disorder, but particularly with an injury such as quadriplegia.
Treatment of scoliosis
Generally the treatment for scoliosis focusses on reducing progression of the curve. Massage therapy can be a successful add-on to any treatment by reducing many of the symptoms experienced by those suffering from the condition. Provided by a trained and experienced therapist, massage can increase flexibility and range of movement in the spine, decrease the incidence of muscle spasms, break down adhesions and increase circulation – all while providing soothing relief and pain reduction. Overstretched and strained muscles on one side of the curved spine can be relieved, while contracted muscles on the other can be lengthened and released.
Although not a treatment in itself, massage therapy is considered to be an ongoing and effective form of symptomatic relief for scoliosis sufferers that, when performed by a skilled practitioner, is highly recommended.
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