Scheurmann’s disease

TheKettleBellPhysioBlog, Uncategorized0 Comments

Scheurmann’s disease is a condition used to describe the shape of bones in the spine which create an excessive outward curvature or ‘hunch’.

Normally rectangular front-to-back, vertebrae can instead develop as ‘wedge-shaped’ at the front. A diagnosis is given to a spine with a fixed (not ‘postural’) curvature of 45 degrees or more with three or more adjacent vertebrae wedged together with at least 5 degrees per segment.

“Disease” is an unfortunate label as 1) it’s simply a description of shape and appearance, 2) it generally isn’t going to change much and 3) no form of ‘therapy’ will ‘correct’ it. We don’t refer to flat feet or ginger hair as a being states of “disease”.

I’ve seen two people this week who have told me “I have Scheurmann’s disease” like it was a cross to bear and somehow disabling. Meanwhile I’m thinking to myself, “yeah me too, so what?”

It shouldn’t be any more of a concern than having flat feet or ginger hair. Really. One person was seeing the massage therapist and didn’t have any visible sign of it at all, which makes it even more strange given that a hunch created by Scheurmann’s is clearly visible (see image).

There’s a pretty good chance that movement will be limited, but again, so what? It develops in adolescence and it’s been there in varying degrees ever since. Unless something significant has changed (which is highly unlikely to be the case), it doesn’t suddenly become symptomatic in an otherwise active healthy individual.

The image is of my back and I hate it.

I’m 41 and I’ve been very self-conscious about it ever since Marcus French called me a hunchback during football practice when I was 12 yrs old. Prior to that I didn’t know that I had it or that my back was any different to anyone else at school. It later became the trigger for me wanting to train in the gym (which turned out to be a good thing) in a futile effort to ‘even myself out’. It is the reason I avoid wearing some clothes and why the pictures and videos I share are never shot from the side.

I also have more than one scoliosis; my feet are as flat as pancakes; my left leg is 13mm longer than the right; I’ve had an ACL reconstruction; I’ve injured both knees and both shoulders and I live with pain most days. Again, so what?!

Not one of these things does or should limit me from doing anything I want, and they don’t.

I feel that my single biggest challenge as a Physiotherapist is overcoming the hurdle that people believe they have a condition they don’t, or that something they have is affecting them more than it should.

If someone was told by a charismatic self-assured health professional that their neck pain was due to ‘text neck’ that may well make sense and could trigger a change their behaviour accordingly, but that doesn’t make it valid, which it most definitely is not.

When I was 16 a dentist advised my mum that I needed a filling; she thought that seemed odd and got a second opinion. 25 years later I still haven’t had any dental work. Just because someone has credentials and a position of authority doesn’t mean they are correct.

Humans are extremely complex, health is at best a grey area, and our understanding of it changes at a rate faster than we can keep up with. A lot of people are given wrong advice.

I feel like I have an obligation to free people from the shackles of poor advice, mismanagement and non-existent states of disease which have stopped them from leading an active, fun, fulfilling life.

If you have a ‘condition’ which you believe is limiting you, my advice is to get a second and third opinion because that’s all it is – an ‘opinion’.

Remember, opinions are like arse holes – everyone has one.

It’s your body, your health, your life.


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