What is scoliosis?
The human nervous system constantly works through reflexes and postural control to keep our spine in a straight line. Occasionally, a sideways curvature develops. If the curvature is larger than 10 degrees, it is classified as scoliosis. Curves less than 10 degrees are often postural changes.
In most cases, the vertebrae are also rotated. In more than 80% of cases, the cause of scoliotic curvatures is unknown; we call this condition idiopathic scoliosis. In other cases, trauma, neurological disease, tumors, and the like are responsible. Functional scoliosis is often caused by some postural problem, muscle spasm, or leg-length inequality, which can often be addressed. Structural scoliosis does not reduce with postural maneuvers. Either type can be idiopathic or have an underlying cause.
What is the treatment for scoliosis?
There are generally 3 treatment options for scoliosis— careful observation, bracing, and surgery. Careful observation is the most common “treatment,” as most mild scolioses do not progress and cause few, if any, physical problems. Bracing is generally reserved for children who have not reached skeletal maturity (the time when the skeleton stops growing), and who have curves between 25 and 45 degrees. Surgery is generally used in the few cases where the curves are greater than 45 degrees and progressive, and/or when the scoliosis may affect the function of the heart, lungs, or other vital organs.
Chiropractic spinal manipulation, therapeutic exercise, and electrical muscle stimulation have also been advocated in the treatment of scoliosis. For patients with back pain associated with the scoliosis, chiropractic adjustments can help reduce the pain!