Sheuermann’s Disease

Sheuermann’s Disease is a developmental condition that results in the thoracic spine (usually) or middle back having an increased forward curve. This happens because the anterior portion of your vertebrae has growth slower than the posterior portion, creating an unusual wedge shape, this shape when stacked on top of one another creates that forward bend of the spine. 

What causes SD?

There appears to be a slight genetic connection with SD, however it is still widely not understood who will develop Scheuermann’s. There are some factors which have been linked to the disorder including:

  • Juvenile osteoporosis
  • Malabsorption
  • Infection
  • Some biomechanical causes – such as a shortened sternum

What are the symptoms?

Usually the original pain or discomfort is described quite broadly throughout the thoracic spine (middle back), this will then lead to an excessive kyphosis (forward bend) of the thoracics. This in turn will lead to a restricted range of motion, especially in extending backwards. 

Pain can be aggravated by sport of movements that involve a lot of twisting or bending, this can include gymnastics, cricket as well as many track and field events. 

How is it diagnosed

After clinical suspicion your practitioner might ask for an x-ray where the images usually show that typical wedge shape vertebrae and subsequent kyphotic increase. 

Prognosis

Unfortunately, there is no cure for SD, however the pain can be treated and well managed, some people will not have pain in the future, however the curved spine will not change. You can lead a relatively normal life with SD, with just some postural issues causing discomfort. 

At worst if your pain does not improve and the wedging of the spine increases a surgical consult may be required, however this is quite rare.

Treatment

So what we can actually do is help with pain relief and management strategies to maintain as much movement as possible, this is done through a few stages. 

  • Pain relief – One of the reasons you will visit is due to your pain, inflammation on the discs can be decreased with ice as well as hands on therapies to reduce muscle tension and help supporting structures of the spine. Occasionally anti-inflammatory medication may be needed to help manage the pain. 
  • Range of motion and strength – once the inflammation and pain has settled it is important that we try to obtain as much motion as possible. This can be through a series of exercises and stretching patterns to improve as much as possible. 
  • Full function – most people can return to sport and regular activities once pain is decreased and motion restored, there may need to be technique changes to limit the amount of extension and rotation, but ideally we want you living as normal a life as possible!
  • Prevention – There are some exercises and stretches you will be given to help maintain the improved range of motion and for that to become your normal, preventing flare ups and ways to manage the flare up should it occur 
  • Or join one of our Pilates classes at our Wodonga clinic! 

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