Scoliosis can develop from the degeneration of the lumbar spine caused by normal wear and tear. Osteoarthritis is also a common cause. It is also common in the elderly as the spine deteriorates from degenerative disc disease. This will also have developed since adolescence but was undetected. furthermore, most cases of scoliosis have no known cause,
A common problem due to degenerative changes in the spine and common in the adult population, I see this a lot in the clinical setting. Complaints from individuals including back pain, sciatica, and functional decline due to anxiety with functional activities from anticipating pain.
Here, I want to share Ms. Carol’s story about her personal journey with this condition. I admire her tenacity as she continues to take charge of her own wellness despite her physical problems. Carol L., has been a patient of mine for over a decade. She is very active in life. She volunteers at a local zoo engage in social and community service activities, joins exercise classes and continues to live her life to its fullest. As told to me, this is her story, verbatim. This is exactly how she wrote it.
“I am 74 years old, and I have been living with scoliosis for the last twenty years or so. A recent x-ray described my spine as follows; “Marked thoracolumbar scoliosis convexity to the left, some 74 degrees.” I’ve been told that I could have been in a wheelchair with this kind of curvature. Instead, I am active, healthy, and flexible.
But, I’ve had to work – consistently – over the last 20 years to maintain my strength and flexibility.
Scoliosis is degenerative, so things change. Scoliosis itself doesn’t hurt – it’s the way it pulls the rest of the body (spine, pelvis, hips, shoulders) out of alignment, causing sore everything and often pinched nerves. It hurts to move, so you don’t! That’s the problem.
My first major episode was a pinched sciatic nerve in about 1995, and I thought I would never walk again. Doctors wanted to prescribe drugs and bed rest. I chose to see a chiropractor. The adjustments would not hold, and I was referred to a physical therapist. After about three physical therapists, I finally found someone who understood my problem and said – Ha! Your pelvis is out of alignment! Let’s work on core strength and stabilize the pelvis.
It’s essential to work on physical therapy, understand the problem, and continue to do the exercises. But, life happens, so you slack off your workouts, you get older, and your curve gets worse. So on and off, I’ve been back in real therapy-each time focusing a little differently on scoliosis, and of course, arthritis!
I have been fortunate to see the same physical therapist – someone who understands the problem and is not afraid to make me work! Staying active – moving – is critical. I’ve tried almost every medication in the market without much success – so I’ve not taken any medication for a long time.
The last episode had been complicated by moderately severe stenosis (according to my MRI), causing nerve pain, and I finally got a steroid injection. With that relief, and some new strengthening and stretching exercises from my physical therapist, I’ve been able to manage the pain reasonably well and achieve much better posture! Now, my focus is on maintaining strength AND flexibility, AND posture! I do a little routine in the morning to get ready for the day. You know when you are out of alignment – you hurt!
The June 2017 issue of Consumer reports says that growing research shows that a combination of ‘hands-on therapy’ (Yoga, Tai Chi, massage, physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic) is more effective than drugs or surgery. I do them all (well, almost all), and it works!
Am I pain-free?? No. Have I been pain-free for the last 20 years? No. But it’s manageable with the exercises, I can do pretty much anything I want to do – walk, climb stairs, stand for hours, volunteer, travel, etc. My therapist warns me I’m getting old and have to be more careful about breaking bones and causing serious injury – so I’m trying to take it a little easier – but not too much!”
– By Carol L. (written 5/31/2018)
It is always possible to make adjustments to inabilities, and one can still live a productive life despite physical challenges. I have so much admiration for this hardworking lady who grabs the bull by its horn and just so inspiring to know!
She was back again for PT this year, for back pain; not a lot of complaints this time, mostly concerned with her R hip and leg. As always, she always gets better and returns to usual activities. She still actively goes to the gym and does her usual volunteer work at the Brevard Zoo 2 days a week.
It was a great pleasure to see her again overcome her difficulties..