Scoliosis is a neuro-muscular condition characterized by a sideways curve of the spine. Most often these curves are S-shaped or C-shaped. The three-dimensional change in the spine’s alignment — the curve — is a symptom of the condition, and not the condition itself. Experts don’t know the cause of 80% of scoliosis cases (these are called ‘idiopathic scoliosis’), and there is no cure.
The good news is that for a certain proportion of those with scoliosis, there is hope. That is, the condition can often be improved somewhat. There are a variety of methods used to treat scoliosis and/or to reduce the associated symptoms. Some of these have a good track record, while others less so.
At Canberra Spine Centre, our approach is to firstly gather detailed information to see if chiropractic care can help. This often includes x-rays to determine the nature and severity of the scoliosis. If we embark on a trial of treatment, an important part of the care provided is education so that you or your loved one fully understands the condition and everything you can do to help yourself.
What happens with Scoliosis?
Scoliosis most often is diagnosed between the ages of10 to 14. In most cases the condition is progressive. Scoliosis patients lose curvature in their necks, resulting in forward head posture. The sideways curve of a scoliosis spine is greater than 10 degrees. Smaller curvatures are common in the normal population. The ribcage twists and the normal curve of the spine flattens. Viewed from the front or side, a scoliosis curve looks flat where the spine is normally curved. When viewed from above the spine appears twisted where there should be no twist.
The are four types of scoliosis:
- Idiopathic scoliosis – The most common type of scoliosis. Idiopathic means of unknown origin.
- Congenital scoliosis – A rare form of scoliosis, affecting one in 10,000 babies in utero.
- Neuromuscular or myopathic scoliosis – Developed in children who have neuromuscular disorders like muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy.
- Degenerative scoliosis – Adult scoliosis; a degenerative condition that typically occurs after age 65.
Detecting scoliosis early is key as once a curve reaches 25 degrees, there’s a 70 percent chance it will continue to progress. There are six things to observe:
- Eye line – Are the child’s eyes level?
- Shoulder level – Do the child’s shoulders hang evenly?
- Hips – Are your child’s hips even when you place your fingers level with the hip bones?
- Forward head posture – When viewing the child from the side, does the ear canal (called the external auditory meatus) line up with the middle of the shoulder?
- Head to hip line – When viewed from the front, would the midline of the head line up with the midline of the hips?
- “Adam’s forward bend test” – When a child does a full forward bend – if ribs ‘stick out’, or are noticeably raised on one side, the child may have scoliosis.
If a child appears out of line in any of these views, he or she may have a spinal curvature.
Oftentimes doctors will recommend no treatment — just observation — for a curve measuring less than 24 degrees (As measured by what doctors call the “Cobb Angle”). They may recommend a rigid spinal brace for up to 23 hours a day for a curve measuring 25 to 39 degrees. Surgery may be recommended for people with curves measuring over 40 degrees.
Bracing is commonly recommended for children with curves measuring between 25 to 45 degrees. However, braces have substantial drawbacks:
- Scoliosis braces cause the muscles to weaken or atrophy
- The joints around the spine need movement or degeneration may develop
- The brace stresses the ribs and often creates a rib hump
- Bracing doesn’t stop scoliosis progression or reduce the need for surgery
- Studies show that bracing significantly decreases lung function
Hard braces and softer “dynamic corrective braces” can also cause pain in children who had no scoliosis pain prior to bracing.
Bracing technology has certainly improved over the past few decades, and for severe scoliosis, despite the discomfort, this is often the treatment of choice.
Scoliosis surgery comes with risks and potential complications. A 2003 study by the University of Iowa discovered that adults who avoid scoliosis surgery have a much better quality of life. Other studies suggest that surgery may range from ineffective to actually damaging.
At Canberra Spine Centre we prefer to retrain the brain and the body to correct scoliosis, if possible. For a severe scoliosis, correction is unlikely. However, improved function and comfort are often noted by these patients with chiropractic care.
Combined with the appropriate rehabilitative exercises, chiropractic care may help in cases of less severe scoliosis. Full correction of a curve is less likely, but some correction, prevention of progression of the curve, as well as improved movement, comfort and function are more common results of chiropractic care for scoliosis.
Chiropractic adjustments to the spine help to restore proper proprioceptive input to the brain, thereby helping the body to correct its own image of itself in space. Corrective exercises may include balance, strength, stretching and specific movement exercises.
See if you can be helped at Canberra Spine Centre!
Canberra Spine Centre is located in O’Connor and serves patients from all over Canberra. We are close to the local shops and bus stops, and our onsite parking is free and very easy to access.
We offer a first-consultation special that gives you $250.00 worth of value for only $95.00! At your first appointment you receive:
- Complete history and a full consultation
- Full spinal & postural examinations
- Screening orthopaedic and neurologic examinations
- X-Rays (If required)
- Findings report at 2nd visit.
Total Value $250.00 – Yours for only $95.00