Scoliosis Q&A

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine. There are several kinds of scoliosis. Functional scoliosis is caused by an abnormality elsewhere in the body, such as where one leg is shorter than the other.  Neuromuscular scoliosis is due to abnormal development of the vertebrae. Juvenile and adolescent are the most common and high-risk forms of scoliosis.  The treatments will vary based on the kind of scoliosis present in the back and the age of the patient.

How is scoliosis diagnosed?

An initial diagnosis of scoliosis is often made based on a visual exam since the most common characteristic of this condition is a C- or S-shaped curve that throws off spinal alignment. Before chiropractic treatment or rehabilitation can begin, further testing is usually done to determine the extent of misalignment and whether or not there is related vertebral or nerve damage.

Children are usually diagnosed around the onset of puberty, although signs may be present before this time. Adults who were surgically treated as adolescents may develop a return of symptoms later in life. However, some adults were never diagnosed earlier in life and only seek diagnosis when symptoms become noticeable and disruptive to daily life. Other times, spine-related changes trigger symptoms.

Diagnosis of scoliosis involves a physical exam, a discussion of symptoms, and X-rays taken from the front and side. Doing so allows the degree of the curve to be measured. A positive diagnosis is made when the curvature is greater than 10 degrees. By the time adults are diagnosed, however, the curve often exceeds 30 degrees. Additional testing may involve a spinal radiograph, a CT scan, and/or an MRI. Family and medical history and patient-specific goals will also be discussed during the diagnosis phase so a personalized chiropractic treatment plan can be recommended.

What are the benefits of chiropractic care for scoliosis?

Treatment for scoliosis by a chiropractor will depend on the location of the abnormality and the extent of the curvature. Chiropractic scoliosis treatment does not correct, cure, or reverse scoliosis. What it does do is improve posture and form, which may also improve function and decrease pain.

Chiropractic adjustments and therapies are designed to help prevent or minimize further degradation of the spine. Treating scoliosis with chiropractic techniques typically involves specific spinal adjustments to correct subluxations (slight vertebral misalignments). Chiropractic correction often benefits patients by reducing the need for surgery, especially if diagnosis is made before the curve has a chance to significantly progress.

Chiropractic alignments and adjustments for scoliosis are also widely considered to be safe for most patients. During each session, care is taken to apply the correct amount of pressure. Patient feedback is also used to determine the nature of treatments.

With chiropractic treatment for scoliosis, patients may also benefit from:

• Improved daily quality of life
• Reduced reliance on medication
• Correction of other issues with the spine that may be contributing to symptoms
• Increased relaxation and stress relief
• Improvements with mobility and range of motion

What are the different types of scoliosis?

There are three basic types of scoliosis. The most common type is idiopathic scoliosis. Idiopathic scoliosis is characterized by a person’s age at the time of diagnosis and the type of curvature that is present. Infantile, juvenile and adolescent are all forms of idiopathic scoliosis. Congenital scoliosis is present at birth and is sometimes severe enough that surgery is required. Neuromuscular scoliosis is a result of abnormal muscles and nerves, and is common in people with cerebral palsy and spina bifida. Degenerative scoliosis is often diagnosed in the elderly as bones in the spine begin to deteriorate and the spine begins to shift.

How is scoliosis treated?

Spinal subluxation is common in those with scoliosis, which can cause to back pain or nervous system disturbances. Fortunately, our chiropractors are specially trained to locate and correct areas of spinal subluxation. If you suspect scoliosis, the first thing you should do is visit your chiropractor. Not only do they work hard to reduce the symptoms caused by altered spinal mechanics, chiropractors do their best to reduce the curve angle. The doctors will perform a variety of tests and based on exam findings and X-ray evaluation, our doctors of chiropractic use special scoliosis tractioning to correct the spinal deviation.  Spinal manipulation and adjustments, therapeutic exercises, electrical muscle stimulation with moist heat, have also been found to be helpful treatment options.