The Cost of Not Treating Scoliosis
Scoliosis is a condition that often goes undetected in kids, especially in the winter months when bulkier clothing hides posture and covers the back. In adults, it can be mistaken for common back pain, wear and tear, or as a part of advancing age.
The key to treating scoliosis is early detection and prompt treatment. The longer a scoliosis remains hidden, ignored or untreated, the longer and often more costly to treat. Every large scoliosis curve once started off as a small curve!
Small scoliosis curves in children and adults are often managed well with scoliosis specific exercise programs. These programs are tailored and individualized for each patient’s curve configuration. There are many different scoliosis curve configurations, so there is no single program that works for all curves and this is why it is so important to consult with an expert scoliosis clinician. By learning the exact exercises that address their individual curves, patients can practice specific, repetitive movements that are aimed at stopping the progression and reducing their curve where possible. Identifying a scoliosis early and treating with a scoliosis specific exercise program is one of the most cost effective, safe, and non-invasive treatment options available to patients. Along with scoliosis bracing, it is one of the most researched, evidence-based approaches to treating scoliosis.
Scoliosis exercise programs can be scheduled intensively over a few weeks, or spread out over a few months. Regular exams and follow-ups are needed to monitor the scoliosis for any signs of progression, especially in growing kids.
If curves are larger or do not respond well enough to scoliosis exercise programs, then these patients can effectively be treated with scoliosis bracing. In rare cases of very large curves, surgery may be the best option.
The main outcome of scoliosis bracing is to stop the scoliosis from progressing, and when possible correct and straighten the spine. In the majority of cases, a good-fitting, custom scoliosis brace can help a child or teenager avoid the need for surgery. There is a large body of published literature supporting scoliosis bracing as a reliable and effective treatment option, especially for growing children. In the New England Journal of Medicine (2013), a multi-center study was published showing most adolescents treated with scoliosis bracing did not go on to require surgery. Since this study was published with the advent of new technology such as 3D scanning and corrective designs, a scoliosis that is treated early enough can also have a great chance of reduction in the curves.
Depending on the age of the patient when the scoliosis is detected and the amount of growth left, kids often need one to two braces as they grow. Scoliosis bracing is prescribed until growth in the child is completed. The cost for a course of scoliosis brace treatment is usually similar, if not cheaper, to the cost of orthodontic braces for teeth. This is often great news for parents as we are dealing with the spine and not just the teeth! The cost of preventative and corrective scoliosis bracing does not even compare to the cost of scoliosis surgery.
Young children, even infants (infantile scoliosis) can benefit from scoliosis bracing. Very young children can get rapid results when a scoliosis is detected while they are growing. Bracing adults for scoliosis is becoming a very popular and effective longer-term option. The brace is worn more as a supportive device to stop the progression of a degenerative scoliosis and to assist with reducing pain commonly caused by scoliosis later in life.
In every healthcare profession, the aim for scoliosis treatment is to avoid surgery. As a last resort, surgery is recommended for patients with curves that have reached a certain degree with a high chance of progressing further. Also surgery may be recommended when the scoliosis begins to compromise the heart and lungs. When a significant scoliosis is detected much later in life, the risks of having a surgery often make it too great for a patient to undergo.
Without treatment, many scoliosis cases have a high chance that they will get worse. Studies have shown in teenagers, untreated scoliosis curves of 20-24 degrees have a 40% chance of progressing. The effects of an untreated scoliosis on a patient are uneven posture, rounded upper back “hunchback”, loss of height, pain, and in severe cases heart and lung issues. When a scoliosis gets to this point, the deformity may be irreversible, even with surgery.
To reduce the amount of time and money, along with the invasiveness of treatment, a scoliosis needs to be detected and treated as early as possible. Early detection and prompt treatment leads to the best outcomes. If you or a loved one suspects a scoliosis, do not wait to find out. Schedule an exam with a scoliosis-trained clinician at Optimal Spine & Posture to get an answer to your pain, bad posture, or suspicion of a scoliosis.