The Straight Truth About Scoliosis

By Dr. Molly Casey

Scoliosis Truths

Perhaps you’re a parent and you’ve heard the term scoliosis, but do you know what it is and what you can do about it? Or maybe you have scoliosis and live with it though don’t know much about it. You’d be surprised how many people have scoliosis and don’t know it, or do but know very little about it. A very common question that arises in the chiropractic office is “Can I still get adjusted if I have scoliosis?”

What Is It?

An anatomically healthy spine, when looking at it from the side, has three curves. One curve is in the cervical spine (neck), one curve in the thoracic spine (mid back), and one in the lumbar spine (low back). When looking at an anatomically correct spine from a straight ahead view, the spine is aligned from top to bottom with no curves. Scoliosis is a condition in which there is an abnormal curve to the side when looking at the spine from a straight on view.

Why Does It Occur?

Scoliosis occurs in childhood during the growth period when the spine is developing. While there are specific conditions that can cause it to arise, most scoliotic cases are of unknown etiology, meaning it’s unclear why it has occurred.

Are There Ramifications?

When the structure of any machine is changed, there will be ramifications. Your body is a machine. The body will adapt to what it’s presented. How well it adapts depends partially upon the severity of the stressor and partially upon the reserves of energy that exist for the body to utilize. The degree to which these ramifications affect function is a different story.

Common structural changes that result from scoliosis are uneven shoulders, one shoulder blade appearing more prominent than the other, one side of the rib cage appearing more prominent than the other, uneven waist or tilted waist, and/or one hip higher than the other.

The larger the scoliotic curve, the more severe the structural changes and the more likely function of the nervous system and organs will be affected. The analysis tool used to decipher the severity of the curve is called the Cobb angle. Surgical options are considered when the Cobb angle reaches between 40-45 degrees in an adolescent and 50-55 degrees in an adult.

Most cases of scoliosis do not fall into the surgical category. Most cases of scoliosis won’t show functional decrease of the nervous system or organs to a measurable degree. However, I do contend that if the structure deviates from what is intended -- even at a minimal level -- function is negatively affected, even if not measurable.

Can You Still Get Adjusted?

Absolutely you can and should get adjusted if you have scoliosis. Of course, every individual has unique requirements. Because most cases of scoliosis do not fall into the severe level, almost no modifications with the adjustment are even needed. Occasionally modifications will be made based on surgical background and/or patient comfort. Chiropractic adjustments help improve nervous system function through improving joint range of motion and ability to withstand and adapt to stressors. It’s logical to infer those with abnormal curvatures would benefit to an even greater degree from the adjustments.

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons estimate that 6 to 9 million people in the United States have scoliosis. Sometimes back pain is present, sometimes it’s not. Regardless, there are structural changes that ultimately play a role in how well the body functions. Should you or someone you know be one of these folks with scoliosis, stop into The Joint Chiropractic to let its doctors of chiropractic help you help yourself. It’s in your body’s best interest.

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