Chiropractic Treatment of Scoliosis

Scoliosis, a sideways curve of the spine, can have devastating affects both psychologically and physically.  While most scoliosis cases are mild, when they are severe they can be debilitating.  Scoliosis can lead to emotional pain, with the sufferer feeling they are “deformed,” as well as physical pain from the disorder itself.  The disorder can affect function to organs close to the spine, such as the heart and lungs.

 

Scoliosis usually strikes teenagers and young children during their growth spurts.  It affects females far more than males, and nearly 90% of cases have no clear cause, which means they are “idiopathic” in nature.

 

Signs of Scoliosis

A diagnosis of scoliosis requires the spinal curvature to be 10 degrees (Cobb angle) or more the left or right from center.  Most minor cases do not have any obvious symptoms and may go undiagnosed in the early stages.  Because scoliosis will worsen, it is very important to get it diagnosed as early as possible for the best possible treatment outcomes.

 

If someone is identified as having the potential for scoliosis, the Adam’s Forward Test is the most common screening done by doctors and pediatricians.  The test is pain free and simple; the patient reaches down to touch his toes while the evaluator stands behind him and looks for these signs:

Diagram of scoliosis in the spine.

  • Shoulder blade protrusion on one side or the other
  • One hip more prominent than the other
  • Tilted body
  • One shoulder higher than the other
  • Differences in the length of the legs
  • Uneven waist

If a patient is determined to have it, doctors most commonly take a “wait and see” attitude by leaving it untreated.  They will monitor the disease progression with x-rays every three to twelve months.  Considering the progressive worsening of this disorder, the lack of a viable treatment plan at early onset is surprising.

Treatment plans will depend on the progress rate of the disorder and will vary according to the severity of the scoliosis.  Historically, patients will have the option of a brace, an exercise plan, surgery, or some combination of the three.

A scoliosis diagnosis will be classified as either functional or structural, with many cases involving an element of both.

Functional:

Functional scoliosis is a change in the spine’s curvature relating to a problem somewhere else in the body.  It is usually characterized by a long curve in the spine that is mild.  While functional is a long curve that involves many vertebrae, there is seldom any actual rotation in the spinal segments themselves.  This will lessen or disappear altogether during the Adam’s Test.

Structural:

Structural scoliosis is more problematic and involves changes to the vertebrae.  If left untreated, functional can advance to structural.  Structural scoliosis is proved by a definitive Adam’s Test, showing distinctive curves during the test’s administration.

 

Mild Exercise can Benefit Patients with Functional Scoliosis

Functional scoliosis can be eased with a mild exercise routine.  Because functional will involve leg length differences and muscle spasming, swimming, yoga or Pilates may benefit this form of the disorder and further treatment may not be necessary.

Unfortunately, most cases involve a structural element and exercise programs, while good for stretching and strengthening the muscles around the spine, can’t solve the underlying problem.

 

Chiropractic Treatment can Benefit Scoliosis Patients

While there is still ongoing research into the overall effectiveness of chiropractic treatments in scoliosis, there are numerous case studies and anecdotal evidence that suggest that it can improve, and even fix it.  It is a very viable treatment plan, and it is safe and all natural.  It is also far better to start treatment early, rather than taking the widely accepted waiting and monitoring approach that most conventional doctors embrace.

Your chiropractor has many different ways to treat scoliosis, but for your best chance at curve reduction you should make an appointment with one who specializes in Chiropractic BioPhysics, or CBP.  These are doctors specially trained in the improvement of the spine and posture of patients while reducing their pain and increasing their functionality.

 

Chiropractic care seems to be the most effective when used to treat functional scoliosis, but they can also help patients suffering structural scoliosis as well; it is important that the chiropractor is able to identify and properly treat both forms of the disorder.  Treatment plans for structural will target joint imbalances and restriction on the concave side of the curvature.  It is important that a chiropractor adjusts the spine properly and in the direction of the corrections to help to open the curve.  Improper adjustment in the wrong direction can cause the curve to worsen.

 

Chiropractic and Rehabilitative Care for Scoliosis

Chiropractic care is most effective when used in combination with other rehabilitative therapy.

Chiropractic treatments are very effective in restoring functionality and relieving the pain associated with scoliosis, but if doesn’t do anything to strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine.

The treatment plans that are most effective will strengthen and lengthen muscles that are on the concave side of the curve, allowing the spine to return to midline.  The muscles on the opposite side of the curve have been under immense strain to keep the body at an unnatural position; these muscles can finally start to relax.

The effectiveness of combining rehabilitative therapy with chiropractic treatment was documented in a September report released in 2011 by the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine.  This report showed that not only was the disability and pain significantly reduced, there was an increase in lung capacity and a reduction in the Cobb angle for 22 of the 28 patients taking part in the study when they combined therapies.  Twenty-four months later, these changes were still in effect during a follow-up exam.

Chiropractic care for the patient will be customized to the their curvature and targeted to strengthen the muscles of the spine.  These therapies will involve SpineCor, a treatment option that uses dynamic tension orthosis, and the Schroth Method, which is a series of exercises specifically designed for the treatment.  In addition, myofascial treatments like the Active Release technique is used for the scoliosis patient, customized for maximum effectiveness based on the curvature of the spine.  Other chiropractic treatments and therapies will target factors that play a role in the worsening of the condition.

 

Chiropractic care is a proactive step to take with a scoliosis diagnosis.  It seeks to provide relief while many medical doctors are still taking the approach of monitoring the disease’s progression.  The key to a successful treatment plan is early detection and intervention.  A chiropractor is familiar with scoliosis and can form treatment options to not only provide relief, but to stop scoliosis before it worsens.

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