The Cost of Not Treating Scoliosis
Scoliosis can sometimes be a hidden condition. Often it goes undetected in kids, especially during winter months when their back is covered by sweaters and bulkier clothes. In adults, it can be mistaken for normal back pain, wear and tear, or just getting older.
The key to getting ahead of the scoliosis curve, is early detection and early intervention. The longer a scoliosis remains hidden or ignored, the longer and often more costly it is to treat.
Small scoliosis curves in children can often be managed well with scoliosis specific exercise programs. These programs are made for each patient’s particular curve configuration - and there are many different types of scoliosis configurations, each with small variations. By learning the exact exercises that address their curves, patients can make specific, repetitive movements aimed at stopping progression and reducing curves where possible. Catching a scoliosis early and managing it 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 evidence based approaches, with published literature on several well known techniques.
Intense scoliosis exercise programs are usually scheduled over a few weeks, and then regular follow up visits need to be maintained over about two years to monitor the scoliosis for any signs of progression.
Curves that do not respond well enough to scoliosis exercise programs, or curves that are only discovered or treated once they have progressed to a significant degree, can usually be effectively treated scoliosis bracing or in some rare cases surgery may be required.
The aim of scoliosis bracing is to stop any worsening of the scoliosis, and where possible get the spine straighter. In most cases a good scoliosis brace can help a child avoid the need for surgery. There is also a large body of published literature supporting scoliosis bracing as an effective treatment option, especially for growing children. In a multi-centre study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013, most adolescents treated with scoliosis bracing did not go on to require surgery. Now, with the advent of new technology such as 3D scanning and corrective designs, a significant scoliosis that is treated early enough can also have a good chance of a reduction in the curves.
Scoliosis bracing for adolescents averages around two years of brace wear. Often more than one brace is required as they grow, or as the curve reduces. The cost for a course of scoliosis brace treatment is usually similar to the cost of orthodontic braces on teeth.
Young children, even infants can benefit from scoliosis bracing, and often very young patients get very rapid results. Bracing adults for scoliosis is a longer term option, with the brace being a supportive device to stop progression and to assist with reducing pain caused by scoliosis.
As a last resort, surgery is reserved for patients whose curves have reached a certain degree with a high chance of progressing further. While this is often the only option for these patients, there are financial costs to consider, as well as risks associated with surgery such as infection and complications. In some cases, scoliosis surgery may need to be redone at a later stage. In adults, the risks of having surgery often make it too great for the patient to undergo.
Without treatment, many scoliosis cases have a high chance that they will get worse. Studies have been done that show 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, 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.
So to reduce the amount of time, money, and invasive intervention a scoliosis needs to be successfully managed, early detection and early action always get the best outcome.
Article from Scolicare for Scoliosis Awareness Month. #ScoliMonth2020