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2 August 2007

Amazing New Research on the Progression of Scoliosis

It isn't often that anyone, even a doctor, gets emotional over a research paper, but a very recent study published in the highly-prestigious & internationally recognized scientific journal Spine at the beginning of this month may very well stir the souls of those who understand the importance of what these incredible scientists & doctors have done.

The study, entitled, "Natural History of Progressive Adult Scoliosis," aims to establish a clear prognosis for individuals living with scoliosis. Research on this topic up to this point has been discordant, even contradictory, leaving people living with scoliosis without a clear answer to the question, "Will my scoliosis get worse?" This new study examined 51 patients over a span of 27 years, and introduced the ground-breaking new concept of different "types" of scoliosis. The first type, Type A, developed an abnormal rotatory subluxation (misalignment) of the spine during the onset of scoliosis. In the words of the authors, "Type A corresponds to adolescent scoliosis which continues to progress after skeletal maturity at a rate specific to each curve." In the second type, Type B, the rotatory subluxation was found to develop prior to the onset of scoliosis, and the rate of progression was much higher in this incidence. Type B was described by the authors as, "a degenerative scoliosis, which progresses late in adulthood: either a pre-existing stable adult scoliosis that progresses late or a de novo late-onset scoliosis." (De novo is Latin, meaning "new.") There was also a subgroup of Type B that was found to progress at menopause. In all cases, however, the rate of progression was found to be linear - that is, it could be predicted on a graph in a straight line.

What is the relevance of this new information? First, even if your scoliosis stabilized after adolescence, that is no guarantee that it will not begin to progress again in adulthood. Second, the aforementioned rotatory subluxation appears to cause this late-progression in previously stable scoliosis cases, although menopause may also be a contributing factor in some regard. Third, and perhaps most importantly, it is possible to establish an individual prognosis for each scoliosis case, and predict its progression, with much greater accuracy than was previously believed.

The graphs demonstrating the linear progression of scoliosis, as well as the complete text of this article, are available at:

Backpacks & Scoliosis

Backpacks & Scoliosis

Although this may seem like a rather mundane topic, one might be surprised at the amount of research that has been conducted on the effect of heavy loads carried in a backpack by people with scoliosis. While standard recommendations state that the amount of weight carried in a backpack should not exceed 10% of the person's body weight, the research concludes that this may not apply to students living with scoliosis. Loads as small as 5% of the person's weight, less than half of the typical load limit, were found to have a significant, negative effect upon the compression of the spine, and also on the functions of the heart & lungs. This occured even in patients with mild scoliosis (Cobb angles of 10-25 degrees).

This information should be particularly relevant to parents of students with scoliosis. Schoolgoing patients treated by CLEAR-certified doctors are provided with a doctor's note that they provide to their school authorities, specifically stating that the patient must have two sets of books - one for use at studying at home, and one to be stored in their locker at school (the only other option, using a rolling suitcase, seems to be much more popular at airports than at educational institutions).