Managing Scoliosis in the Workplace

February 27, 2019

X-ray of scoliosis
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

Scoliosis, or an abnormal curve of the spine, affects an estimated 2 to 3 percent of the population in the United States. In many cases, scoliosis is discovered in childhood, and long-term condition management can help prevent serious complications. But a significant number of adults also live with this condition, many for years before ever realizing there's a problem.

For adults, managing scoliosis and its symptoms can present a real challenge. You may think dealing with scoliosis in the workplace is impossible, but it's easier than you think. Using the right tools along with your doctor's advice is the best way to ensure successful symptom management while staying productive.

Understanding Adult Scoliosis

In most cases, adult scoliosis results from the degeneration of the spinal column due to the normal wear and tear that comes with aging. A smaller number of adults actually develop scoliosis in childhood, but it's not diagnosed until later.

While children are usually affected in the upper portions of their spine, the lumbar — or lower — portion of the spine is the site most adults have to worry about. In many cases, this abnormal spinal curvature causes no symptoms. But other people experience significant pain issues, height loss and misalignment of the pelvis and hips.

Managing Scoliosis at Work

Long-term condition management may seem daunting, but you can handle scoliosis — and any symptoms it causes — easily in your workplace. There is no cure for the condition, but many therapies can help you manage pain while strengthening your core and spine. Your doctor can also recommend medical treatments, like medications, to help you handle any pain.

Ergonomic Office Tools

Regardless of whether you mostly sit or stand at work, there are a variety of ergonomic tools designed to support your spine, promote proper alignment and alleviate pain. If you sit most of the day, ergonomic chairs and seat cushions help you achieve good posture while helping you stay comfortable.

Other tools, such as ergonomic floor mats, are designed to offer the same type of support for people who stay on their feet all day. And devices like standing computer desks or desk risers allow you to easily switch between sitting and standing. Changing your position throughout the day helps manage pain and promote spinal alignment.

Back Braces

While primarily used with children, some physicians recommend back braces to help manage pain caused by scoliosis. Braces can be rigid, but most worn by adults are softer and more flexible.

The results are still out on the effectiveness of braces, but some people find they help decrease pain caused by scoliosis. Other types of postural braces may help you achieve the same effect.

Scoliosis Exercises

Your doctor may recommend certain exercises, like physical therapy, scoliosis-specific Pilates or yoga to help strengthen your body. Some evidence suggests physical therapy helps reduce pain while improving other body functions, like breathing. And yoga may help improve your strength and flexibility through stretching, breathing exercises and holding certain positions.

Managing scoliosis doesn't have to be impossible, but you do have to be willing to try different therapies or solutions until you find what works best for you. Long-term condition management may also involve over-the-counter pain medications if nonsurgical treatments don't fully work. Speaking with your doctor about any symptoms you experience can help point you in the right direction toward living as pain-free as possible.

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