Important Facts About Scoliosis You Should Know

Drawings of women showing different types of scoliosis

Scoliosis is a condition that is far more common than many people realize. It affects roughly 2% to 3% of the U.S. population, which translates to nearly nine million people. For people living with scoliosis, whether or not they have been diagnosed, scoliosis can drastically affect their quality of life.

Scoliosis is more manageable when it’s caught and treated early. If you’ve been diagnosed, understanding and knowing these facts about scoliosis is the first step to receiving effective treatment.

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a developmental disorder in which there is an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine that exceeds 10 degrees, typically with twisting or rotation of the spine. The spine has natural curves that occur in any of the three regions of the spine. These are the cervical (upper back), thoracic (middle back), and lumbar (lower back) regions.

The spine’s natural curvature is important, as it aids the spine in one of its primary functions—acting as the body’s main shock absorber. However, a variety of factors can cause this curvature to develop abnormally.

There are four main types of scoliosis, described in more detail below.

Types of Scoliosis
IdiopathicNeuromuscularDegenerativeCongenital
This is the most common type of scoliosis, constituting  around 80% of all cases. There is no identifiable cause.This type of scoliosis occurs when there is a neurological issue that impairs the muscles and ligaments that surround the spine. This happens in people with neurological conditions such as spina bifida, which results in the breakdown of the spine’s normal curvature.In degenerative scoliosis, the form and curvature of the spine gradually deteriorate over time as a result of aging spinal joints and discs. As a result, the muscles in the region get weaker, and the spine’s alignment deteriorates. This type of scoliosis is also very common and usually manifests after the age of 40.Congenital scoliosis develops as a result of birth defects that cause the infant to be born with a curved spine.

Because the unnatural curve can develop uniquely from person to person, the types of symptoms and their severity will differ. The most common symptoms of scoliosis include but are not limited to:

  • Back pain in any of the three regions of the spine
  • Uneven appearance of ribcage
  • Difficulty sitting or standing for long periods
  • Aches and pains in the joints such as the vertebrae of the spine or SI joints
  • Sciatica
  • Numbness or tingling that extends into the legs and feet
  • One shoulder blade raised higher than the other
  • Pelvic misalignment
  • Leg asymmetry
  • Leaning to one side                                                         

Top Facts About Scoliosis

  • Scoliosis can develop at any age: While we typically think of scoliosis as a condition that affects juveniles and adolescents, it can begin to develop in later years. Degenerative scoliosis is extremely common in older adults. Just as the treads on tires wear down over time, the cushioning in our spine can wear down due to curvature issues, resulting in the exacerbation of the unnatural curvature.
  • Scoliosis has a hereditary link: While there is very little evidence that shows that scoliosis can be directly inherited, there are combinations of genetic factors that can cause individuals to have an increased risk of developing scoliosis. This is why medical professionals will often ask whether or not someone in your family has scoliosis.
  • There is no known specific cause for most types of scoliosis: Scoliosis does not have a single identifiable cause such as a gene or underlying medical condition. This is why the majority of cases are known as idiopathic. 
  • Scoliosis is more than a cosmetic issue: Scoliosis does more than make you stand awkwardly. It can cause significant health problems and impair your ability to sit, stand or walk. When the curvature reaches extreme degrees, it can even impair your ability to breathe. 
  • Early diagnosis is crucial: While the “watch and wait” method has been a historic norm for scoliosis, it is not recommended. The best way to treat scoliosis and prevent it from developing further is to take a proactive approach.
  • Bracing is effective, but not all braces are created equal: While regular bracing can slow the progression of scoliosis, older braces mostly keep the irregular curve in position by preventing it from moving. However, more innovative, over-corrective bracing solutions like ScoliBrace® push against the unnatural curvature to halt the progression, and in some cases, reverse the curvature. 
  • Surgery is necessary in extreme cases: When the scoliotic curve reaches 50 degrees or more, surgery is likely necessary. While surgery is effective, taking a proactive approach to scoliosis treatment can prevent the spine’s curvature from reaching the need for surgery in the first place.
  • Chiropractic care can be an effective, non-invasive treatment option: Chiropractic care for scoliosis can not only relieve symptoms such as pain and discomfort, but certain treatments can also prevent further degeneration of the spine’s curvature.

Chiropractic Treatment for Scoliosis 

So, what are the treatment options for scoliosis? Chiropractic care can be a good first line of defense against the further progression of scoliosis.

There are many schools of thought for treating scoliosis, each with specific use cases.

  • Schroth method: The Schroth method is designed to correct the spine’s curvature through a combination of stretches, strength and condition exercises, and breathing exercises based on the individual’s spinal curvature.
  • Scientific Exercise Approach to Scoliosis (SEAS): SEAS is an individualized, neurophysiological exercise program where the goal is to train automatic neuromotor function to stimulate a self-correcting posture during daily activities. This way, the individual is unconsciously correcting and maintaining correct posture throughout the day.
  • ScoliBalance® method: ScoliBalance® is a physiotherapeutic scoliosis-specific (PSSE) program that combines the most effective techniques from physical therapy, chiropractic care, and exercise rehabilitation for a three-dimensional approach to care.
  • Chiropractic BioPhysics® (CBP): CBP is a combination of physical therapy and chiropractic modalities that aim to reduce the non-anatomical components of scoliosis, such as correcting posture, optimizing spinal alignment, improving neurophysiology, reducing pain, and improving day-to-day function.

The type of treatment will depend on factors such as age and the degree and unique characteristics of your curvature. For example, people adults with idiopathic scoliosis would follow these guidelines:

Degree of Spinal CurvatureTreatment Method(s)
Less than 10 degreesObservation or manual therapy and exercise. Chiropractic BioPhysics®
10 to 25 degrees Part-time bracing (ScoliBrace®) or scoliosis-specific exercise rehabilitation such as ScoliBalance® combined with CBP
Thoracic curve less than 25 to 60 degreesLumbar curve less than 20 to 50 degreesFull-time bracing for scoliosis with CBP for sagittal curve improvement
Thoracic curve less than 60 degreesLumbar curve less than 50 degreesConsultation for surgery and more aggressive bracing

It’s important to understand that not all chiropractic therapy for scoliosis is effective in treating the condition beyond mere pain relief. While many chiropractors are equipped to provide chiropractic adjustments, which are effective in treating pain and discomfort, many cannot provide in-depth treatments such as the options listed above.

That’s why it’s important to receive care from an expert that is trained in advanced techniques. 

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. 

PostureWorks Provides a Better Scoliosis Treatment Option

Scoliosis develops uniquely from person to person and requires an equally unique treatment plan to prevent progression. That’s why the team at PostureWorks uses Chiropractic BioPhysics® to provide an in-depth analysis of your spine’s unique curvature as well as your entire medical background.

Then, based on that information, we develop a highly individualized, non-invasive treatment plan that makes use of a range of techniques, including posture training, neuromuscular instruction, spinal traction, and chiropractic adjustments. For the greatest outcomes, we combine these procedures with ScoliBrace® to overcorrect the spine.

You’ll get more than simply pain alleviation from our treatment regimens—you may be able to avoid significant surgery and enhance your daily life.

Contact us today to learn more facts about scoliosis 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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