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Scoliosis and Chiropractic Care

Scoliosis is a scary diagnosis for any parent. Will your child be forced to wear a back brace? Will he or she need back surgery? Can your child continue to play football or volleyball?

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about scoliosis and how chiropractic care can treat it safely and effectively:

What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a lateral, or sideways, curve in the spine. Most cases start out as mild curves, but when the progression becomes severe, it can reduce the space within the chest, hampering breathing and limiting mobility.

There are a number of causes, such as bone abnormalities, cerebral palsy, or traumatic back injury. However, researchers don’t know what causes the most common kind of scoliosis, which is often found in girls reaching puberty.

What are the treatments for scoliosis?
Traditional treatments
Braces are one way to treat spine curvature. They don’t cure scoliosis or reverse a curve that’s already there; rather, the braces are designed to prevent the curve from progressing further. Although some types of braces can be worn discreetly under clothing, others are full-torso affairs that can be uncomfortable and embarrassing.

Fusion of the spine through surgery is another treatment, but it’s usually reserved for severe cases, where curves are more than 40 degrees.

Most medical doctors won’t even consider scoliosis treatment unless the curve is more than 20 degrees. Even though many mild scoliosis cases are never treated, research shows that children with scoliosis are more likely to grow into adults who live with chronic back pain. Furthermore, untreated scoliosis can lead to arthritis of the spine, a degenerative and debilitating condition.

Chiropractic care
Spinal manipulation and physiotherapeutic procedures help to strengthen, relax or stretch the muscles and ligaments around the spine. A chiropractor can safely treat less serious curves, so the condition can be managed and monitored before it progresses to something more serious.

Research suggests promising results for the chiropractic treatment of scoliosis. In numerous case studies, spinal manipulation has moderated the curve of scoliosis patients. Additional research suggests that chiropractic care is a safe and effective way to reduce curvature and increase the patient’s ability to function. Another study found that after 4-6 weeks of treatments, spinal manipulation helped reduce patients’ Cobb angle, a measure of scoliosis curvature.

Even if your child has a mild case of scoliosis, you can help prevent future problems. Seeking treatment now will help prevent problems like chronic back pain and arthritis.

Rowe DE, Feise RJ, Crowther ER, Grod JP, Menke JM, Goldsmith CH, Stoline MR, Souza TA, Kambach B. Chiropractic Manipulation in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis: A Pilot Study. Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2006;14:15.

Morningstar MW, Joy T. Scoliosis Treatment Using Spinal Manipulation and the Pettibon Weighting System: A Summary of 3 Atypical Presentations. Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2006; 14:1

Morningstar MW, Woggon D, Lawrence G. Scoliosis Treatment Using a Combination of Manipulative and Rehabilitative Therapy: A Retrospective Case Series. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2004; 5:32