Scoliosis

What is scoliosis? Scoliosis is defined as a lateral curvature of the spine (in the side to side direction). There are two main types of scoliosis, functional and structural.

A functional scoliosis refers to a sideways curvature that usually moves symmetrically when bending from side to side. A structural scoliosis is one that stays curved during movement. Idiopathic scoliosis comprises 80% of the structural scoliosis. This is the type which can progress during adolescence and can lead to serious health consequences. It is found in 2 to 5 % of the population and occurs mostly during adolescence. Girls are 5 to 8 times more likely for the scoliosis to increase in severity.

Is it serious?

Functional curvatures in the spine might contribute to or cause spinal pain and a reduction of flexibility later in life due to wear and tear of the dysfunctional joints and unequal biomechanical stresses. But generally this type of scoliosis is not usually associated with any serious disability.

However, idiopathic scoliosis can be quite serious. A child may not exhibit pain early on since it is a slow progressive disorder. If the spinal curvature progresses to the point that it compromises the lungs and heart, surgery may be necessary to fuse the vertebra into place. Fortunately this doesn't occur very often, but children need to be examined periodically. The screening tests are quite simple and should be done on every child up until the age of maturity.

What are the signs of scoliosis?

  1. One shoulder may be higher than the other.
  2. One shoulder blade may be higher or more prominent than the other.
  3. There may be more space between the arm and the body on one side, when the arms are hanging loosely at the side.
  4. One hip may appear more prominent or higher than the other.
  5. The head is not centered over the pelvis.
  6. When a person is viewed from behind while they bend forward one side of the back may appear higher than the other.

What causes scoliosis?

Functional scoliosis can occur at any age and is most often related to overdevelopment of muscles on one side of the spine, poor posture, an inequality in leg length or poorly moving joints in the spine. Addressing the cause usually results in fairly rapid improvement in the curvature. This might involve strength and stretch exercises, posture improvements, or a heel lift combined with chiropractic adjustments.

Structural curvatures can be due to abnormally shaped, fused or misaligned vertebrae. The cause of idiopathic scoliosis by definition is unknown. There are some genetic and heredity correlations and there is some research that correlates to handedness (right vs. left) which indicates a muscle weakness correlation. There is also some research that shows a nutritional component, and there may even be a hormonal component since this type of scoliosis is primarily found in adolescent girls. Whatever the reason, the treatment approach should consider as many of the causes as possible.

What should you do if you suspect your child has scoliosis?

If your child shows any of the signs of scoliosis, seek professional help from a chiropractor or an orthopedic surgeon. Either of these professionals can evaluate the need for x-rays and recommend various treatment options. If it progresses to a large degree, it may be necessary for mechanical bracing or even surgery.

Dr. Douglas uses a conservative, multidisciplinary approach in treating mild to moderate cases. This includes manipulation, massage therapy, exercise instruction and nutritional support.

Dr. Bryan Douglas is a chiropractor treating conditions such as low back pain, neck pain, headaches, and disc injuries in Emporia.
Dr. Bryan Douglas is licensed as a chiropractor in the State of Kansas.

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