Learning Curve: What You Need to Know about Scoliosis
By Dr. Molly Casey
Patients who come in from time to time will either say they have scoliosis and are concerned whether they should be getting adjusted, or ask if an adjustment can help their son or daughter after getting a scoliosis diagnosis. Scoliosis can be serious -- and chiropractic can help.
When looking at the side view of your spine, a normal healthy spine should be curved-in at the neck and low back and curved out at the mid-back. Those curves are an important part of the physics and structure of the spine. When we look at a spine from straight ahead, the spine should be straight up and down.
Scoliosis is a condition in which an individual has an abnormal curvature of the spine (from a straight ahead view, not a side view), generally in an S or C shape. The causes most often are unknown. Many experts talk about both genetic and environmental factors.
Is the condition severe? The answer to that depends upon the degree of the curve. The larger the curve, the more side effects one is likely to experience. The degree of the curve is measured by a doctor using the Cobb angle, which is evaluated on X-rays. Scoliosis occurs in approximately three percent of people with most being between the ages of 10 and 20 years old. Girls are generally more severely affected than boys.
Signs and Symptoms
While the Cobb angle is the gold-standard assessment tool, there are some physical shifts or changes that may indicate a need for further evaluation. The most obvious ones, particularly in children or teenagers, are postural changes. Frequently one can begin to see asymmetry when looking at the child’s back, meaning a curve is almost apparent to the naked eye. Another indicator for further evaluation is uneven shoulder and/or hip height. You may notice that one shoulder blade appears farther from the spine or midline of the back compared to the other. Clothes may fit or hang on the child in an asymmetric way. If you see these signs, it’s wise to see a healthcare professional -- including the doctors at The Joint Chiropractic -- for further evaluation.
Scoliosis can cause a myriad of symptoms that are varied and largely dependent upon the degree of the curve. Changes in posture are present. Pain throughout the neck, back and legs can be present along with headaches. More severe cases may actually cause impairments in lung function, and females can have menstrual irregularities.
Scoliosis and Chiropractic
What can chiropractic do for those who have scoliosis? Let’s review the basics. The brain sends messages down the spinal cord through nerves to every cell in your body. Those cells also send messages back to the brain. The nervous system is your master control system. Every function in your body occurs within, and because of, that system. You live your entire life through it. The spine is the structure that protects it. If the structure itself is not fully built in the way it was intended for maximal support (i.e., without scoliosis), then some of the communication and functioning will be compromised regardless of whether you feel it. So, if you start out of the gate with a structure that’s not quite as developed as was designed … how much more important do you think it is to make sure that the spine is moving and functioning at a foundational level? A whole lot more important.
Those who don’t have scoliosis may have greater margin for error, in terms of stressing their physical body, than those who are afflicted with scoliosis. Therefore, proper spinal movement and clear functioning of the communication system is that much more important for those with scoliosis.
Patients have expressed that regular chiropractic adjustments have helped increase their flexibility and decreased their pain. Some have even said that they’ve seen a stop in the growth of the curve. Results vary, but they are there. If you have questions or concerns or feel you or someone you know needs an evaluation, doctors at The Joint Chiropractic are eager to help.
Dr. Molly Casey is a Doctor of Chiropractic who practices in the Los Angeles area. She works twice a week at The Joint Chiropractic in Glendale, CA.