Can Chiropractic Help with Scoliosis?

After a long hiatus from school, our children are finally headed back to enjoy long days of learning, after-school programs, and sports!

As for parents, we are getting all of the doctor’s visits out of the way, taking our children for their sports physicals, and completing health screenings.

We’re doing all the necessary things to keep them safe and healthy for the upcoming school year.

Did You Know

Scoliosis is a condition that most health professionals keep an eye out for with kids because it usually first pops up when a kid’s skeletal system and developing.

So if the doctor happens to mention it, don’t worry.

A majority of cases can be helped without drugs or surgery.

And if you’ve heard about chiropractors working with scoliosis, you may be wondering…

“Can chiropractic help with scoliosis?”

Let’s find out.

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a spinal deformity that exaggerates the natural curves of the spine.

Many times it will present as a C-shaped curve or an S-shaped curve.

Female Chiropractor Explaining the Curves of the Spine to Her Young Male Patient Using a 3D Model
Can Chiropractic Help with Scoliosis: Curves

This will disrupt the musculoskeletal system, creating an uneven balance for the body.

Scoliosis is considered a progressive spinal disorder.

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As the body grows, scoliosis has the potential to worsen in pain, symptoms, and functionality.

Fast Fact

Research has determined that 82% of scoliosis occurs in adolescents between the ages of 10-18, which is why getting your children screened for scoliosis is imperative.

Termed Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS), this type of scoliosis will often arise around puberty.

Currently, there is no proven cause for why this occurs, although there are many theories.

Regarding gender, AIS has a 49% occurrence in females, 1.44 times higher than the chance of occurrence in males [1].

Other types of scoliosis have a more clear cause, one of which is degenerative scoliosis.

Young Female Latina Chiropractor Evaluates the Spinal Curve of Mature Male Patient for Degenerative Changes
Can Chiropractic Help with Scoliosis: Types of Scoliosis

Degenerative scoliosis typically occurs in the elderly and is associated with progressive and uneven degeneration of the spine’s discs, joints, and other vital fragments [2].

The two mentioned above are the most commonly seen types of scoliosis.

However, there are still a few additional rare types, including [3]:

  • Early Onset Scoliosis
  • Congenital Scoliosis
  • Syndromic Scoliosis
  • Traumatic Scoliosis

Scoliosis: Diagnosis and Prognosis

Symptoms of scoliosis may vary in severity depending on the degree to which the spine is curved and what muscles or organs it may be affecting.

Common Symptoms of Scoliosis
  • Back pain.
  • A hump in the mid-back.
  • The body is leaning to one side.
  • The feeling that one leg is longer than the other, muscle spasms.
  • Possible physical deformities.

Although the patient will recognize the most significant symptoms, parents are the first to notice apparent leaning or curving of the body with scoliosis.

If you see any of these sensations, symptoms, or physical deformities in your spine or another’s, asking your doctor is especially important.

Young White Mother Discusses Results of Scoliosis Evaluation of Her Young Girl with Young Black Chiropractic Physician
Can Chiropractic Help with Scoliosis: Evaluation

Different healthcare specialists diagnose and create care plans to treat scoliosis, including chiropractors, physical therapists, and primary care physicians.

Although testing for scoliosis is relatively easy, scoliosis has the potential to be very tricky when diagnosing.

Scoliosis can be defined by multiple factors, including direction, degree, etiology, and prognosis.

During a visit to the doctor’s office, you will see various tests to determine the different factors.

Adam’s Test

Adam’s test is the most recognized and well-known orthopedic test for scoliosis.

Most people recognize this test because it has been performed by doctors for ages.

When the patient bends over, the doctor looks for a ‘hump’ or muscle inequality from side to side of the patient’s spine.

A positive outcome with Adam’s test means there is likely a significant curvature.

It is appropriate to take the next step.

The second step to determine exact curvature and severity would be getting an x-ray.

X-rays of the entire spine are performed to get a comprehensive view of the spine and how it tilts and turns as it goes down the body.

Young Female Chiropractor Discusses X-ray Results with Young Boy Following Scoliosis Evaluation
Can Chiropractic Help with Scoliosis: Diagnostics

Once these images are obtained, evaluation of the spine includes measuring out a Cobb Angle that will help determine the prognosis for the patient.

Typically with any patient under 18-20 years of age, the following protocol will take place:

  • Cobb Angle of 10-20 degrees = monitor progression; conservative care including physical therapy and chiropractic adjustments.
  • Cobb Angle of 20-30 degrees = Conservative care, including physical therapy and chiropractic adjustments with the possibility of a brace.

  • Cobb Angle of 30-40 degrees = Conservative care including intensive physical therapy and chiropractic adjustments with the usage of a brace
  • Cobb Angle of 40+ degrees: consideration for surgical intervention
Secondary Treatments

Treatments other than chiropractic adjustments and physical therapy include bracing and surgery.

The type of brace most commonly used is the passive or static brace.

These braces are measured to fit the body.

They have been shown to stop the scoliotic curve progression in 80% of adolescents with scoliosis [4].

The second type of bracing is called functional bracing.

Chiropractors most commonly use this method to help slow growth and reduce the degree of the curve.

These braces consist of a weighting system that allows the muscles around the spine to slowly realign by correcting the opposing sides of the spinal muscles.

This prepares the spine to start its migration back to a more normal position.

Young African American Female Chiropractor Discusses Treatment Options for Mature Male Patient with Moderate Scoliosis
Can Chiropractic Help with Scoliosis: Treatment Options

Surgery is used in extreme cases with a curvature typically over 40-45 degrees or if the curvature affects any organs’ function.

Typically an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon will perform scoliosis surgery to correct the spinal deformation.

Scoliosis surgery involves the spinal fusion with rods and ratcheting system along the spinal curve and attaching it to the spine using two hooks.

Surgery is the option with the most severe side effects, including lack of motion in the spine, increased occurrence of arthritis, and potential for infection or hardware malfunction [5].

Can Chiropractic Help with Scoliosis?

Chiropractic offers an excellent conservative method to treating scoliosis through spinal manipulation or adjustments, flexion and distraction of the spine, massage, and physical therapy designed for each patient’s spine.

Chiropractors Know

All chiropractors have basic training in treating scoliosis.

In fact, there are some places where chiropractors solely treat and focus on correcting scoliosis, which you may be directed to by your primary chiropractor.

For years research has shown a decrease in spinal curvature with chiropractic, especially when treated early.

Not only does it have the ability to decrease the curve and severity of symptoms, but it can provide better overall health for your body.

Recent research conducted a controlled trial on ten adolescent children who were previously diagnosed with scoliosis by their primary care physician.

Experienced Female Chiropractor Works with Young Black Child to Correct Her Scoliosis
Can Chiropractic Help with Scoliosis: Results

These ten children received massage, flexion and distraction technique, and spinal manipulation two-three times per week.

At the end of their care, follow-up x-rays were taken.

They showed an average of 21.2% decrease in scoliosis, no deterioration, and increased stability [6].

Adjustments are one of the main tools in a chiropractor’s repertoire and one of the great ways chiropractic can help scoliosis.

There are two different ways chiropractors can use adjusting to assist in scoliosis care: specific or global adjustments.

  • Specific adjustments are the type used most often with patients that present with spinal symptoms—moving one bone at a time with precision of timing and motions to assist the nervous system in healing the spine and body.
  • Global adjusting is less common and not used as broadly.
  • Global adjusting involves moving multiple segments of the spine in one action.
  • The primary theory behind this is that what needs to move will adjust if it’s ready.

With two schools of thought, there are many ways to create an effective method and treatment plan in which a patient’s spines can start to heal.

In addition to adjustments, massage and specific exercises are added to help the spine’s flexibility and strength and allow the muscles to move within the correct plane.

Muscle spasms often lead to discomfort for the patient and the lean of the body to one side.

Massage is essential for helping with the flexibility of the forces that usually are experiencing a constant spasm on one side of the body.

Young Girl and Boy Participate in Muscle Strengthening Activity to Help Strengthen the Muscles Supporting their Spines
Can Chiropractic Help with Scoliosis: Prognosis

Once the muscles have relaxed, then the patient can progress to strengthening both sides of the spine.

Many times these exercises include putting weights on one side of the body to induce isotonic muscle contraction.

The specific muscle contractions help the weaker side play catch up to the stronger side.

Conclusions About Scoliosis and Chiropractic Care

When your child goes to their sports physical, make sure to ask about scoliosis, how it may affect your child, and how chiropractic may help.

Prevention is always a better plan than a reaction to severe scoliosis symptoms.

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