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How Scoliosis Affects Your Health Over Time

How Scoliosis Affects Your Health Over Time

Your body’s architecture influences your overall health, so scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, could cause problems beyond the visible spinal deformity and bodily asymmetry. 

Whether you or your child has scoliosis, understanding how the condition affects the rest of your body is crucial.

Here, renowned, double-board certified orthopedic surgeon and spine specialist Patrick McNulty, MD, FABSS, FABOS, explains scoliosis’ far-reaching influence and how to treat your condition to save your spine and overall health.

Scoliosis and digestion difficulties

Scoliosis, especially in moderate to severe forms, can lead to alterations in the digestive system. 

Your spine forms the foundation for your body’s alignment and structure and protects your organ systems. Misalignments from scoliosis can compress your digestive tract, impair digestion, and cause heartburn, nausea, and discomfort after meals. 

Scoliosis and bowel problems

Spinal changes can slow your digestive system, leading to abdominal pain, bloating, and irregular bowel movements. The longer food remains in your digestive tract, the higher your risk of obstructions or infections. 

This condition, often called “lazy bowel syndrome,” involves reduced digestive efficiency, abdominal discomfort, constipation, and a decreased frequency of bowel movements. 

When your digestive function is compromised, it also affects your body’s nutrient absorption capabilities, potentially resulting in complications like dehydration and malnutrition.

Scoliosis and lung function

A straight spine is optimal for lung function, but a curved spine can compress the space your lungs need to expand fully, leading to limited air capacity. 

This restriction is especially concerning if you have severe scoliosis, where your chest cavity deformities impair the natural breathing mechanisms. You may experience unexplained shortness of breath, an often-overlooked symptom because its source, scoliosis, can sometimes slip under the radar in respiratory assessments.

Scoliosis and sleep issues

Sleep is your body’s time to renew itself. If you don’t get enough deep sleep, your body stays in a constant state of disrepair, so quality and quantity matter.

Spinal curvature can cause chronic discomfort that often worsens at night, disrupting sleep patterns. Beyond pain, you may find it challenging to adopt the recommended sleep positions, which can exacerbate spinal issues. 

Poor sleep can lead to myriad health problems, from compromised immunity to mental health struggles, so don’t ignore scoliotic sleep disturbances.

Scoliosis and chronic pain

For many, scoliosis is synonymous with chronic pain. The curvature can place undue pressure on the spine and its supporting musculature, leading to persistent back pain unrelated to a specific event or activity. This perpetual discomfort can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, which further perpetuates the cycle of pain. 

Early diagnosis of scoliosis allows you to address the problem through physical therapy, bracing, or, in severe cases, surgery to manage the underlying causes of pain.

Scoliosis and headaches

Your spine and central nervous system connect and interact through complex networks. Scoliosis strains both systems and compresses nerves in the neck and upper back, which can manifest as headaches. In addition to tension headaches, the curvature can lead to cervicogenic headaches that originate in the cervical spine. 

Scoliosis treatments

Dr. McNulty offers a range of tailored treatments for scoliosis, focusing on each patient's specific needs based on the severity of the spinal curve, its root causes, and the patient’s age. 

Children with a curve between 25 and 40 degrees might find relief and prevent worsening conditions with the help of a brace. For milder forms of scoliosis, Dr. McNulty often recommends regular monitoring, including routine checkups and X-rays, to closely observe the condition’s progression.

In more severe scenarios where the spinal curve exceeds 40-50 degrees, Dr. McNulty might recommend spinal correction/fusion surgery. This procedure involves the use of bone grafts alongside metal rods and screws or cable band anchors to correct and stabilize the scoliosis curve. Spinal fusion surgery is viable for children, teenagers, and adults. 

Dr. McNulty may suggest the innovative FDA-approved Tether System for younger patients, which corrects the curve while maintaining spinal motion, potentially avoiding or postponing the need for fusion reconstruction.

Don’t let scoliosis wreck your health — call McNulty Spine in Las Vegas or Henderson, Nevada, or request an appointment online and talk to Dr. McNulty about your symptoms. 


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