Scoliosis and your Spine
Scoliosis is an abnormal curve of the spine causing a three-dimensional deformity that results in changes to the structure and function of the spine as well as the soft tissue surrounding it. The word itself comes from the Greek word for crookedness.
From a side view, the spine should not be straight. It is normal to have an S-shaped curve with 3 small C-curves. The C-shaped curves of the neck and low back each form a lordosis. The reverse C-shaped curve of the mid-back is called a kyphosis. These curves allow for flexibility and also support the body. They help keep us balanced and allow us to stand upright.
In scoliosis, however, the spine’s straight (from the front) position begins to bend sideways. Scoliosis can take the form of a single curve (C-shaped) or a double curve (S-shaped). This curving can lead to changes in the shoulders, ribcage, pelvis, waist, and the overall shape of the back.
Scoliosis is twice as more common in girls than boys. It affects approximately 4% of the population and can be seen at any age, but usually starts in puberty. In children, scoliosis is associated with increased pain, reduced function, and poor self-image. In adults, it is associated with increased back pain, poor quality of life, and self-reported disability. Scoliosis is hereditary, in that people with scoliosis are more likely to have children with scoliosis; however, there is no correlation between the severity of curves from one generation to the next.
There are 3 main types of scoliosis:
Idiopathic scoliosis represents the most common type of scoliotic presentation. The cause of idiopathic scoliosis is unknown but thought to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Congenital scoliosis is the second most common type of curvatures. In congenital scoliosis, a curve(s) is present at birth due to malformation of vertebrae that have occurred in utero.
Neuromuscular scoliosis is also known as secondary scoliosis and is the third most common type. It is caused by a neuromuscular disease or condition (cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida). These neuromuscular diseases can cause a loss of muscular support for the spine, and it can be pulled in abnormal directions resulting in curves in the spine.
Taking Care of Scoliosis
Treatment for idiopathic scoliosis depends upon the severity of the curvature. It is classified as mild ( less than 20°), moderate (20° to 40°), or severe ( more than 40 °) depending on the degree of curvature. For mild scoliotic curves, patients are usually monitored for progression. However, if the curve shows signs of rapid progression, back bracing may be recommended. In situations where conservative treatments like bracing may be ineffective, and curvature progresses, surgery may be required to help stabilize and straighten the spine.
Idiopathic scoliosis is widely treated by chiropractors and common goals of treatment include correction or stabilization of curve severity and pain relief. It’s often the case where a chiropractor may be the first healthcare professional that documents abnormal curves in a patient, as the signs of scoliosis are subtle and can be easily missed. It can be diagnosed using a family history, a physical examination, and X-rays of the spine.
Traditional chiropractic treatment for scoliotic patients is similar to what a chiropractor would do for any other patient experiencing back problems. Chiropractors may use different therapies for each patient, depending on the severity of scoliosis. The primary method of chiropractic treatment involves the adjustment and mobilizations of the spine and joints. Chiropractors may also use other therapies to support the main treatment. Exercises in conjunction with chiropractic care are often used to help improve mobility, symmetry and help patients to return to pain-free lifestyles.
The majority of people with scoliosis lead normal, happy and productive lives. It is best treated when found early, so if you suspect scoliosis or are unsure, book an appointment with your chiropractor to get more information.