Busting the Myth about Posture and Scoliosis
Scoliosis, or better known as the abnormal curvature of the spine, is a life-long spinal condition that results in the spine becoming ‘off-centre’ and growing sideways, often looking like a ‘C’-shape curve or ‘S’-shape curve from the back.
Naturally, our backs are curved, and most of us incline to tilt to one side or the other when sitting. Moreover, due to shoulder imbalance, we may also tend toward poor sitting postures. This then beckons the question, “Will my poor posture over time lead to the development of Scoliosis?”.
The short answer to that question is no. Scoliosis does not develop from any type of sports involvement or injury, the carrying or backpacks, sleeping positions, improper posture, or minor leg length differences. Neither does poor sitting posture cause scoliosis.
Classifications of Scoliosis
The most common type of scoliosis is Idiopathic Scoliosis, with ‘idiopathic’ meaning that the cause is unknown. Due to this uncertainty in a cause finding the best and most effective treatment can be an arduous task. Some research has found some genetic evidence linked to scoliosis, thereby suggesting that the spine curvature occurs because of genetic predisposition, as opposed to external circumstances being responsible for the spine’s curve.
Thus, due to the genetic nature of Idiopathic Scoliosis, external non-invasive treatments like manipulation and exercise will not yield long-term success. Furthermore, unless the degree of curvature is extensive (more than 50 degrees), surgery is not necessary.
In cases where spinal curvature is caused by weakness and/or tightness of muscles and/or joint stiffness surrounding the spine, external non-invasive treatments such as joint mobilisation and exercise are likely to be effective. This, however, this condition is not classified as a true Scoliosis.
Bracing is aimed at controlling the progression of the scoliotic curve, not to eliminate it. This method of treatment is sought when the scoliotic curve is between 25-40 degrees, and when the spine has not yet reached full maturity, or when the curve is less than 25 degrees but worsens by more than 5 degrees within a 6-month period. Braces are to be worn 18-20 hours a day through the growing years to achieve maximum effectiveness.
Physiotherapy aims to strengthen the weak muscles and to improve the flexibility of the shortened and tight tissues. This would in turn help to slow down the development of muscle imbalance and joint stiffness, whilst also reducing back pain. Physiotherapy can be used as a treatment either alone or to supplement individuals who are also wearing braces, as the corrective effects instigated by the braces are further enhanced by the physiotherapy methods during and after the braces are weaned off.
At the end of the day, although poor posture does not lead to the development of scoliosis, adopting an optimal sitting posture prevents us from getting other types of pains. We should be mindful to move, stand up and take frequent breaks when we sit for long periods of time.