The Relationship Between Scoliosis and Sciatica

A man sitting on the couch grimaces while holding his back due to pain from sciatica and scoliosis.

Spinal health can affect the body in a multitude of ways. It can cause pain that appears after injuries or develops slowly over time from an ambiguous source. Due to the complex array of nerves in the region, damage to the spine can also cause issues in other parts of the body such as the arms, neck, hips, legs, and feet. 

Scoliosis and sciatica are two common causes of pain that affect these areas of the body. Many people may find themselves wondering what the relationship is between scoliosis and sciatica as they often produce many similar symptoms. This article will detail scoliosis and sciatica as well as whether or not there is a relationship between the two.

What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis refers to a progressive spinal condition where the spine has an abnormal lateral curvature that is greater than 10 degrees with twisting or rotation of the spine. 

The spine’s normal curves occur at three specific points. These include the cervical (neck), thoracic (center of upper and middle back), and lumbar (lower back) regions. These curves work together to keep the body’s posture in the correct position so that the body can properly handle motor functions and absorb shocks that occur during movement. 

Scoliosis is relatively common and affects about 3% of the US population. While often seen as a childhood condition, scoliosis can also develop in adults as well, accounting for 30% of all scoliosis. The cause of scoliosis depends on the type of scoliosis the patient has.

There are four types of scoliosis:

  • Idiopathic: Idiopathic scoliosis refers to a kind of scoliosis with no definite cause. This is a developmental condition that is believed to run in families and typically begins in adolescence.
  • Congenital: Congenital scoliosis occurs when spinal curvature is affected by misshapen vertebrae in the spine. This can be diagnosed as early as infancy but is typically diagnosed in adolescence. 
  • Neuromuscular: This type of scoliosis develops when there is an issue with an individual’s neurology. This causes the muscles surrounding the spine to be weak and can cause the spine to lose its natural curvature. It is typically found in patients with neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida.
  • Degenerative: Degenerative scoliosis occurs as the result of wear and tear to the spine over time. As the joints and discs in the spine begin to deteriorate, it weakens the surrounding muscles and causes issues with the spine’s alignment. 

Scoliosis can manifest in any area of the spine and cause a variety of symptoms including:

  • Back pain and stiffness
  • Neck pain
  • Difficulty sitting or standing for long periods
  • 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

Because scoliosis alters the curvature and shape of the spine, it affects how weight and pressure are distributed to the muscles, joints, and discs in the spine. This uneven pressure on nerves is one of the main causes of symptoms associated with scoliosis—such as pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the back, legs, and feet.

What Is Sciatica?

Sciatica, sometimes called lumbar radiculopathy, is a condition that affects the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest and thickest nerve in the body. It originates in the gluteal area from five nerve roots—two of which are in the lumbar region of the spine and three from the sacrum area of the spine—and runs along the leg down into the feet while also branching out into other various nerves. 

Sciatica causes pain that ranges from mild to debilitating that can occur anywhere along the path of the sciatic nerve. It can also cause a range of other symptoms such as:

  • Burning, shooting, or radiating pain along the sciatic nerve
  • Numbness in feet and legs
  • A sensation of “pins-and-needles” in feet and legs
  • Weakness in feet and legs
  • Pain when bending forward or backward
  • Discomfort in leg

Sciatica pain and symptoms can vary wildly in location and intensity. For instance, it’s possible to feel a sharp, severe pain in the left leg while also experiencing numbness in the right side of the hip and leg.

Sciatica typically occurs due to damage to or pressure on the sciatic nerve. Because of its location, irregularities and injuries to the spine can cause sciatica. 

Is There a Relationship Between Scoliosis and Sciatica?

Because scoliosis and sciatica are both responsible for causing a host of similar symptoms including pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the pelvis, legs, and feet, it makes sense to conclude that the two are related.

While scoliosis can cause nerve issues without affecting the sciatic nerve, the uneven distribution of pressure on the lumbar spine, which is where the roots of the sciatic nerve are located, means that there is a clear connection between scoliosis and sciatica. Because scoliosis is believed to have hereditary causes, this means that many associated conditions such as sciatica can also have a genetic link

It’s important to know that sciatica can also exist independent of scoliosis. If an individual has sciatica it does not mean that they have scoliosis. 

Scoliosis and sciatica can be interrelated and mutually reinforcing, but this isn’t always the case. Because scoliosis is a structural issue and sciatica is a neurological issue, when seeking treatment for either or both, it’s important to ensure that you have a treatment plan that accurately assesses your condition. While there is a connection between scoliosis and sciatica, they are different conditions with different causes. 

One of the best long-term treatment options for both conditions is chiropractic care.

Treating Scoliosis and Sciatica With Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care offers a safe and effective treatment for both scoliosis and sciatica that can bring long-term relief from pain and other symptoms. Chiropractic care begins with an in-depth physical exam to rule out other conditions and determine whether or not scoliosis and/or sciatica are the causes of symptoms.

For patients that are diagnosed with scoliosis and/or sciatica, chiropractic treatment includes:

  • Postural exercises: Postural exercises are designed for patients with scoliosis to help the muscle in the region maintain the natural shape of the spine by improving posture and the patient’s ability to unconsciously hold proper posture.
  • Neuromuscular education: This involves restoring the body’s natural movement patterns by retraining the nerve connections between the brain and soft tissues. 
  • Spinal traction: For patients with scoliosis, spinal traction helps to stretch and straighten the spine, correcting its curvature and normal pelvic tilt.
  • Bracing: This can slow scoliosis progression by pushing the spine back into the center. Newer braces such as ScoliBrace® can improve scoliosis as it bends the irregular curves into opposite positions.
  • Chiropractic adjustments: Manual adjustments to the lower back can reduce the inflammation affecting the sciatic nerve. 

The most important part of treatment for either scoliosis or sciatica is proper analysis. Not only is it important to accurately diagnose the causes of symptoms, the unique curvature of the individual’s spine means that patients will require a unique treatment plan.

PostureWorks Treats Scoliosis and Sciatica With Chiropractic BioPhysics®

The team at PostureWorks understands that complex conditions require accurate, highly specialized treatments. That’s why we use Chiropractic BioPhysics® to accurately assess our patients’ spinal curvature and develop customized treatment plans to treat both scoliosis and sciatica. 

Whether you have one or both, Chiropractic BioPhysics® begins with a complete overview of your medical history and a comprehensive biometric analysis of your spine to ensure you will receive the correct treatment plan uniquely tailored to your condition. By utilizing a variety of treatments such as postural exercises, neuromuscular education, bracing, and spinal traction to help restore your spine’s natural curvature, you can have relief from scoliosis and sciatica symptoms and halt the progression of scoliosis. 

Contact us today to learn more about chiropractic treatment for scoliosis and sciatica 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 while eliminating the source of pain and circulatory and nervous dysfunction. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is conservative, painless, and non-invasive.

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