Scoliosis can develop into a debilitating enough disorder to require treatment. These treatments can be invasive, costly, and risky. It may be possible to explore chiropractic care as an alternative or preventative measure.
What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine, curving too much (more like a “C” or “S” shape). Most of the time, it has an unknown cause (also known as “idiopathic scoliosis”). It is categorized by age: infantile, juvenile, or adolescent. It affects girls more, and it can worsen during a growth spurt. The disorder may be asymptomatic, but some people experience lower back pain, uneven hips or uneven shoulders, a tired feeling in the spine, or a spine that curves more to one side. The disorder can be diagnosed by physical exam (where the patient bends forward), spinal curve measurement (scoliometer), X-rays, or MRI.1 “Scoliosis affects 2-3% of the population…and there is no cure”. Although most people don’t require treatment, some patients have “pain, reduced respiratory function, or diminished self-esteem”.2
Treatments and Complications
Depending on the cause of the scoliosis, the amount, type, and location of the curve, and if the spine is still growing, treatment varies. Most people do not need treatment, but they should still be monitored twice a year. One of the traditional treatments is a back brace to prevent further curving. They work best for people older than 10, who have idiopathic scoliosis. A more invasive treatment is surgery. The spine would be held by metal rods, hooks, and screws. This involves cutting through the back, abdomen, or under the ribs. Complementary treatments include emotional support and physical therapy. There are many complications related to the spinal disorder including: “breathing problems…low back pain…spinal infection after surgery…spine or nerve damage”.3
Can Chiropractic Help?
Because X-ray exposure, surgery, infection risks, emotional issues, and other complications can result from traditional medical treatments of scoliosis, some have sought alternative care. Anecdotal evidence has shown the chiropractic may be an option for treating the disorder. One researcher, Dr. Charles A. Lantz, D.C., Ph.D., is conducting a research project to see how effective chiropractic can be “in the management of children ages 9-15 with mild to moderate scoliosis”. The National Scoliosis Foundation supports these efforts. Dr. Lantz noted that scoliosis management by chiropractors has typically included adjustments, “exercise and postural counseling”, and now can include electrical stimulation.4 A retrospective study of adults with scoliosis, after exercised-based chiropractic treatment, showed “improvements in pain, Cobb angle, and disability” both after the treatment and two years later.5 It will take more formal research, but anecdotal studies have shown the promise of chiropractic and rehabilitative care in the treatment of idiopathic scoliosis.