The term scoliosis refers to a condition where abnormal lateral curvature is present in the spine. If you were looking at someone from behind, a person with normal spinal development would have a spine that is straight up and down, while a person with scoliosis would have a curve to the right or to the left.
Scoliosis affects approximately three percent of the population, and in most cases the exact cause is unknown. Many people who have this condition never require any remedies or therapies, but those who suffer from severe cases typically have three options for scoliosis treatment.
If you notice that your child has uneven shoulders, uneven hips, or one prominent shoulder blade, they may have scoliosis. Unless scoliosis is caused by an injury later in life, the condition will usually be detected during childhood (many schools and pediatricians offer scoliosis screenings).
The severity of a scoliosis is based off of the degree of the curve; if the curve is severe enough to require treatment, a brace is often used before surgery. Surgery typically cannot be performed before a child is twelve years old (since the spine is still growing), so a back brace can help with posture and stabilization until that time. Bracing will not fix an abnormal curve, but it can often prevent the curve from worsening and help relieve pain and other symptoms.
In some cases, the brace can cause muscle atrophy if muscles are not exercised and used. The most common type of brace is an underarm brace, but this cannot be used if the scoliosis is in the neck or upper back. Most patients are instructed to wear the braces day and night.
If the condition is severe (usually a curve of forty degrees or more), your doctor may recommend spinal surgery. In all but the very worst cases, surgery is postponed until a child’s bones have stopped growing. Scoliosis surgery differs somewhat depending on the location of the curve, but typically the surgeon will fuse two or more vertebrae together to straighten the spine and restrict individual vertebral movement.
Hooks, screws, and/or rods may also be placed to straighten and stabilize the spine and fix any deformities. Scoliosis is a three dimensional condition, and surgeons must consider all sides of the spine to achieve proper and normal curvature. Spinal surgery can stop abnormal curves from worsening, but does not always relieve all associated symptoms.
Many people are not aware that there is a third option for scoliosis treatment, but there are chiropractors who specialize in the care and rehabilitation of mild to severe scoliosis. Most doctors of chiropractic who specialize in this treatment have been certified by the Clear Scoliosis Institute. These chiropractors focus on postural rehabilitation and spinal biomechanics to improve curvature and reduce pain and other symptoms.
Treatment can include rehabilitative exercises, chiropractic adjustments (typically with a specialized instrument), as well as intensive postural corrections. This type of remedy requires active participation on the part of the patient, and can also include spinal decompression, spinal traction, and whole body vibration therapy. X-rays will be used to help diagnose the problem, and to track progress.
- Scoliosis: Wikimedia Commons