Scoliosis and RA

Last updated: March 2022

There are a lot of strange aspects of rheumatoid arthritis, and when I look back at my childhood, there were several health issues that seemed unusual and out of place at the time, but that make more sense now. For instance, I had bouts of low white blood cell counts, seemingly-perpetually “sprained” ankles and wrists, and recurring knee pain.

When looking at these symptoms in the context of RA, they make more sense. There’s another abnormality I’ve had since childhood that has left me once again scratching my head: scoliosis.

An early scoliosis diagnosis

Remember standing awkwardly in gym clothes in a line of students in PE waiting to have your spine checked? Although I took part in these scoliosis screenings, my spine didn’t wave any red flags at my PE instructors. Yet, when my mom started taking me to a chiropractor in middle school in search of relief for my knee pain, he quickly diagnosed me with mild scoliosis.

My scoliosis was very subtle

It’s subtle enough that a PE coach wouldn’t be expected to find it. Interestingly, it’s far more noticeable when looking at my ribcage than when looking at my spine. If I suck in my tummy, it’s readily apparent that one side of my ribcage is at a very different angle than the other side, jutting out rather than being parallel with my torso.

Did scoliosis worsen my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms?

In middle school, I thought that was kind of cool. It was a little party trick I’d use in response to 7th grade boys flipping their eyelids inside out and the like. Now, I’m wondering if this slight spinal curvature may have exacerbated my RA symptoms.

Misalignment & uneven weight distribution

Throughout my life, I’ve been told repeatedly by multiple chiropractors and massage therapists that my alignment is off. A chiropractic adjustment helps temporarily, but by the time of my next visit, I’m once again misaligned. When the body’s alignment is off, joints are not carrying weight equally. A hip or knee may be slightly contorted, and end up causing other joints to carry more weight, as it isn't evenly distributed. In addition, if joints are bearing weight at odd angles, this may place additional strain on those joints.

Scoliosis & RA: what is the connection?

I did some research to see if there was a correlation between RA and scoliosis. The only connection I could find is that rheumatoid arthritis can cause disc deterioration, which can lead to degenerative scoliosis.

However, it’s idiopathic scoliosis, the type of scoliosis that develops without an identified cause in childhood or adolescence, that I’m curious about. Several other RheumatoidArthritis.netcommunity members have shared that they have both RA and scoliosis, which has me wondering about how these two conditions interplay.

There is so much that researchers are still trying to learn about this volatile, unpredictable disease, that I wonder if one day they may discover that there is a correlation between idiopathic scoliosis and RA.

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