Patients Ask: How Does Scoliosis Affect the Body?

During your early adolescence, you may recall standing in line waiting for the school nurse to give you an examination for scoliosis. It’s a widespread practice because of how common scoliosis is and the importance of early detection.

However, for many, these early childhood exams are the only time they are checked for scoliosis; many aren’t routinely examined for scoliosis. Scoliosis can be detrimental to one’s quality of life especially if they’re unaware they have it.

How does scoliosis affect the body, you ask? 

This blog will define scoliosis, how it affects the body, and treatment options.

What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a developmental spinal condition that results in the spine developing an unnatural lateral curve that exceeds 10 degrees with twisting or spinal rotation. 

When viewed from the back, the spine should appear straight. However, with scoliosis, this natural shape is altered and curves into a C- or S-shaped curve. Scoliosis can be easily visible but can also go unnoticed depending on the severity of the curvature. 

Scoliosis can affect any region of the spine but typically occurs in the upper spine and the lower back. 

While scoliosis is commonly associated with adolescence, it can appear at any age. In most cases, there is no known cause of scoliosis. 

The different types of scoliosis include: 

  • Idiopathic: This form of scoliosis has no identifiable cause. It is a developmental condition that is believed to have a hereditary component and often manifests in early adolescence. This is the most common form of scoliosis, typically examined by a school nurse. 
  • Congenital: This type of scoliosis is generally caused by the irregular shape of vertebrae in the spine. 
  • Neuromuscular: Neuromuscular scoliosis occurs due to an issue with neurology that causes the muscles and ligaments surrounding the spine to weaken. This results in the spine’s curvature breaking down and is found in patients with neurological disorders such as spina bifida. 
  • Degenerative: This form of scoliosis is the result of the spine breaking down over time due to the deterioration of spinal joints and discs and affects the adult population. This causes the muscles in the region to also weaken and the spine’s alignment to become irregular.

How Does Scoliosis Affect the Body?

Scoliosis can lead to a variety of complications that depend on the type of scoliosis as well as the age at which it manifested. How long the condition has gone untreated is also a factor. 

Common symptoms of scoliosis include:

  • Back pain and stiffness
  • Difficulty sitting or standing for long periods
  • Leaning to one side
  • Pain that ranges from mild to severe in the hips, knees, and feet 
  • Numbness or tingling in the legs or feet 
  • Weakness in the legs and feet
  • One shoulder blade being higher than the other 
  • Aches and pain in joints

Scoliosis can manifest at different stages of life and the magnitude with which it manifests will determine the severity and onset of symptoms. For example, if scoliosis rapidly progresses to over 40 degrees, the chances of permanent deformity are much higher than in a patient whose curvature develops more slowly. The two main factors that can help predict whether or not scoliosis will worsen are curve size and age. 

For idiopathic cases, smaller degrees of scoliosis tend to slow in progression as the skeleton reaches maturity (around 25 years old or sooner) and will tend to be stable until midlife. However, later in life, this can make the spine more likely to suffer deterioration as the spine has maintained an unnatural curvature. 

Adult onset scoliosis occurs as the vertebrae in the spine break down. Because of this degeneration, the spine loses its ability to maintain its natural curvature. 

Scoliosis does not only affect the spine itself. Because the spine is the main support structure for the body, irregular curvature can result in asymmetrical leg lengths, uneven shoulders, and irregular pelvic orientation, among other issues.

Parts of the Body Impacted by Scoliosis

LegsSince many of the muscles in your legs are connected to those in your back, back discomfort frequently spreads to your legs. Also, scoliosis can create uneven weight bearing from side to side, creating more wear and tear on one leg versus the other. Scoliosis can affect the neurological system in such a manner that tingling and numbness in the legs are also conceivable. In people with scoliosis, chronic muscular cramps and spasms as well as leg weakness are also fairly prevalent. 
Shoulders and ArmsShoulders may sit unevenly due to scoliosis-related spine curvature. In what is known as frozen shoulder syndrome, this aberrant shoulder posture can cause one or both shoulders to float, resulting in excruciating discomfort and stiffness in the shoulder joint that becomes worse over time if left untreated. Over time, the shoulder blades can also move in any direction.
Chest
Trouble breathing is a common scoliosis symptom because the shape of your spine also influences the position and movement of your ribcage. This can alter the performance and capacity of your lungs. 
Nervous System
The spinal cord, a vital component of your neurological system, is housed in the spine. Spinal abnormalities affect your body’s capacity to carry out organ and motor activities. Movement, coordination, and response times may be impacted by pinched or kinked spinal nerves that delay the pace at which nerve impulses leave the brain and travel to the rest of the body. The brain’s capacity to direct and coordinate the primary organ functions is impaired by these alterations in neurological function. Major scoliosis complications include digestive difficulties, elevated heart rate, and anxiety. Scoliosis can impair organ function and shorten your life in extreme circumstances.
SpineThe imbalances created through the spine due to scoliosis lead to accelerated spinal degeneration of the bone and soft tissues supporting the spine. Disc herniations are common in adults with scoliosis and progress to bone spurs and fusion in later life. Over time, the ligaments and stabilization of the spine can be greatly altered around the apex of the scoliosis.

Because of the way scoliosis can affect the entire body, it’s important to catch and treat scoliosis as fast as possible. The longer scoliosis goes untreated, the more the condition will progress and the worse symptoms will be. 

If you’re concerned that you may have scoliosis, free online screenings like the one from ScoliCare can be a great first step toward diagnosis and treatment. 

Treating Scoliosis with Chiropractic Care

Now the question “how does scoliosis affect the body?” has been answered, you’ll likely be wondering about possible treatment options. Chiropractic care offers a non-invasive way to treat scoliosis and prevent it from degenerating to the extent that it requires major surgery.

This is done via a combination of treatments, depending on the type of scoliosis and its severity.

  • Postural exercises: Postural exercises will train the muscles in the spinal region to maintain the natural shape of the spine and improve posture.
  • Neuromuscular education: This process retrains the nerve connections between the brain and soft tissue to restore the body’s natural movement patterns.
  • Spinal traction: Spinal traction can help correct the spine’s curvature by stretching and straightening the spine.
  • Bracing: This can slow the progression of scoliosis by supporting the unnatural curvature of the spine. An advanced “over-corrective” brace such as ScoliBrace® can improve scoliosis because instead of holding the spine in place, it pushes the unique spinal curvatures back to center.
  • Chiropractic adjustments: The use of manual adjustment to the problem areas of the spine can reduce inflammation, pain, and discomfort while also improving the range of motion and mobility in the joints of the spine. However, manual adjustments will not improve or reduce scoliosis progression.

When obtaining chiropractic care for scoliosis, it’s important to ensure that a proper analysis is done to accurately diagnose the degree of spinal curvature, the cause of scoliosis, and any other complication that may need to be treated.

This way, you receive the most effective treatment to help alleviate symptoms and prevent scoliosis from progressing further. 

Chiropractic BioPhysics® and ScoliBrace® Offer Effective Scoliosis Treatment

The team at PostureWorks knows that the best route to preventing and potentially correcting scoliosis is with a tailored treatment plan designed to treat your individual spinal curvature. We use Chiropractic BioPhysics® to accurately assess and diagnose your scoliosis and create a customized, non-invasive treatment plan.

With Chiropractic BioPhysics®, we will incorporate a variety of treatments including postural exercise plans, neuromuscular education, spinal traction, and chiropractic adjustments paired with ScoliBrace® to bend the irregular curves of the spine in opposite directions of the scoliosis shape to improve your spinal curvature and prevent further deterioration.

With Chiropractic BioPhysics® and ScoliBrace®, you could see relief from pain and discomfort, halt scoliosis progression, and avoid major surgery.

Contact us today if you’re still asking “how does scoliosis affect the body?” or to schedule your appointment with PostureWorks.

Chiropractic BioPhysics®, or CBP, is a deeply researched and results-oriented corrective care technique. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine back to health and optimal function. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is conservative, painless, and non-invasive.

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