Chiropractic Treatment for Scoliosis

Scoliosis is an intricate disease. Experts still don’t know what causes 80% of scoliosis cases, and there is no cure. But there’s still hope! There are proven methods to treat scoliosis and reduce its symptoms. X-rays allow doctors to measure the unique, three-dimensional curve of each person’s spine in order to determine the best method of treatment.

Chiropractic treatment for scoliosis involves regular adjustments, with the hands or a device. The goal is to realign the muscles, bones and joints. There are two types to choose from: traditional and scoliosis specific.

Traditional Chiropractic Treatment for Scoliosis

Traditional chiropractic treatment applies a general approach, similar to what the chiropractor would do for any other patient experiencing back problems. However, if the chiropractor is not practiced in scoliosis and familiar with its intricacies, traditional chiropractic treatment is unlikely to have much of an effect on the Cobb angle. This method is only recommended for patients over the age of 13 with very small Cobb angles of 20 degrees or less. Traditional treatment can be useful for relieving pain, but not for physically straightening the Cobb angle in scoliosis patients.

Aiming to mobilize the spine and straighten the curve, traditional chiropractors might press down on the spine and rib cage while the patient lies on their stomach (this is often referred to as “adjusting on the high side of the rainbow.”). However, the irregular curve of the spine sometimes develops to take tension out of the nerves. Pushing down on the spine does not relieve this tension; it further aggravates the nerves. With scoliosis, the spine is not stuck, as it is with most other chiropractic issues, but rather it curves in the wrong direction. You can’t mobilize a scoliotic spine without also stabilizing and correcting it.

Scoliosis-Specific Chiropractic Treatment for Scoliosis

Scoliosis-specific chiropractic treatment for scoliosis goes outside of the traditional guidelines to stabilize the curve. Aiming to gradually correct the spine into a classic spinal curve, scoliosis-specific adjustments are precise and gentle. This method can help people in all walks of life — people who’ve already had surgery and don’t want to have it again, people trying to avoid surgery, teenagers who don’t want to wear a brace, as well as most other situations.

Most people think of scoliosis as a sideways curve of the spine, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. A spine should have three curves: the cervical lordosis that points forward in the neck, the thoracic kyphosis that points backward in the middle of the back and the lumbar lordosis that points forward in the low back. Scoliosis forces the spine in a different direction for one or more of these three natural curves.

People with scoliosis are, for all intents and purposes, double jointed in the neck. This hypermobility makes the joints unstable and puts them at a higher risk of injury and dislocation if not treated gently. There is no twisting or turning of the neck in scoliosis-specific adjustments. Scoliosis-specific adjustments use a precision mechanical adjusting instrument to adjust the neck and other joints of the body.

The first step to restoring the good curves in the spine is to recenter the head. While the patient is sitting up, an adjusting instrument is used to deliver precise but gentle forces into the bones of the neck. These forces work to coax the neck into the ideal position. Adjustments may also be performed on the back and hips, depending on the three-dimensional measurements of the spine determined from x-rays.

Many chiropractors claim to specialize in scoliosis, when in reality their knowledge is limited. It’s important to start a dialogue with your doctor to ensure you’re receiving care from a chiropractor practiced in scoliosis. If your chiropractor is not giving you the results you want or adjusting the treatment to yield them, it may be time for a new doctor.

Outside of the adjustments in the doctor’s office, one to two hours of exercises a day is necessary to achieve the best results. Scoliosis exercises include balance training, strength training and, for severe cases of scoliosis, the scoliosis traction chair to elongate the spine and uncoil the nerves with vibration. As your Cobb Angle decreases, you can decrease the exercises as well. However, you can never stop completely without your Cobb angle suffering.

To treat scoliosis, you need to be your own advocate. What matters to you? What makes the most sense for your lifestyle? What are you looking to achieve? Maybe rather than focusing solely on improving the Cobb angle, you’d rather address lifestyle issues or specific symptoms of your scoliosis. It’s necessary to establish a dialogue with your doctor to empower yourself and take control of your spinal health.

Have any questions about what a chiropractic treatment for scoliosis could look like in your situation? Or maybe an experience you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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15 comments on “Chiropractic Treatment for Scoliosis”

  1. Hello, recently my scoliosis has caused me to start lymping on the righteg, have very tight muscles on the left side of my neck, arm and shoulders. I also have a burning sensation throughout my back different from heartburn, in addition to difficulty breathing. My cardiologist has cleared any speculation that it is a heart problem.

    I would like to see a Clear Scoliosis Chiropractor. I am a Kaiser Permanente Member and as a member we can see Chiropractors. Do you have suggestions on who is Clear Certified. I live in Los Angeles, CA., Little Tokyo.

    1. Dr. Josh
      Tengo un hijo adolescente nos hemos dado cuenta el 19 de enero 2018 de un problema de columna vertebral scoliacis
      Que tratamiento es el mas recomendable

  2. Thanks for the information for treating scoliosis. My son was diagnosed with it, and I have been considering this for a long time.It's good to know that there are scoliosis-specific treatments that he can go through

  3. I have a mild case of scoliosis. My back is so tight and hurts. It feels like it needs to be popped. Is it okay to go to a chiropractor to have it popped? Or is it a waste?

    1. This is a very good question! Only a chiropractor can properly treat areas of spinal misalignment and restriction; no other healthcare profession devotes as much attention to the joints of the spine as does chiropractic. If a spinal segment is "stuck" or restricted, motion in that area is altered or reduced, which can accelerate degeneration of the disc & facet joints, increase muscle pain & soreness, and potentially irritate nerves and other tissues in that area. Chiropractic is extremely safe; the most common side effect is muscle soreness, and the risk of stroke from an adjustment of the neck is infinitesimally small; you are just as likely to suffer a stroke in a chiropractor's office as you are turning your head to back out of a parking spot. It is also very cost-effective; in a recent review conducted by some of the largest insurance companies in America, patients who visited a chiropractor for back pain had their condition resolved faster and at less expense than patients who saw a MD or PT.
      If the Cobb angle is 20 degrees or less, and the patient is older than 16 (14 for males), then the majority of chiropractic techniques will be suitable for helping with pain & stiffness. If the curve is more severe, or if the pain persists after 4-6 weeks, you would want to reach out to a scoliosis specialist, such as a CLEAR certified chiropractor, a physical therapist trained in SEAS or Schroth, or a CBP doctor who has completed their scoliosis module.

  4. Hi, My Daughter is 10 years old and diagnosed with scoliosis. It's mild now, but can be sever while she is growing. Can Chiropractor help my daughter or she is young for that?

    1. Hello, and thank you for taking the time to contact us. Ten years of age is an important time for a young woman with scoliosis, because females tend to go through their growth spurt around the age of 11. This is when the scoliosis has the greatest risk of getting worse. It's not uncommon for a 10 degree curve in a 10 year-old to progress (worsen) to a 20 or even 30 degree curve by their 13th birthday. For this reason, cases of scoliosis in girls age 10 or younger should always be taken very seriously.
      The good news is that CLEAR chiropractors are trained in several cutting-edge methods of assessing the risk factors for scoliosis progression, and that many of these risk factors can be influenced by treatment. With careful monitoring and dedication to keeping their appointments & doing their spinal exercises, it is possible for a young woman to prevent their scoliosis from getting worse during growth.
      I would definitely recommend that you reach out to a CLEAR doctor or other scoliosis specialist right away, as time is of the essence. If there isn't a CLEAR doctor near you, you can travel to visit one of our Intensive Care (IC) certified doctors, who can achieve a great deal in a short time frame (typically two weeks). They will also prepare a home exercise plan and recommendations for follow-up care with a local doctor. Please feel free to contact us at [email protected] if there is any additional assistance we can provide! I wish your daughter all the best of success in her scoliosis journey.

  5. If a chiropractor is not suppose to push down on the thoracic area, where does he push on the vertebraes in the thoracic to adjust someone with scoliosis. Most all will say they know all about Scoliosis and pushing down while a patient lies on their stomach is how they treat scoliosis.

    1. This is a very good question; I am glad you asked!
      There is a special type of thoracic adjustment, which is performed with the patient lying face-up, rather than face-down. The chiropractor positions their hand under the patient's back, stabilizing the ribs, and delivers a "hug" or a "squeeze"-type force. This type of "anterior thoracic adjustment" reinforces rather than diminishes the normal thoracic kyphosis. All CLEAR chiropractors are trained to adjust the mid back in this fashion.
      One of the prevailing theories for why the spine rotates in scoliosis is to reduce the mechanical tension on the spinal cord. If the nerves are under tension, pushing down on the mid back will increase that tension, causing the muscles & the body to resist the correction. If, however, the tension on the spine can first be reduced through addressing forward head posture, restoring the cervical & lumbar lordosis, etc, then the rotation (and hence the sideways curve) can be successfully reduced. For more information, please read this article by CLEAR's founder, Dr. Dennis Woggon.

  6. I found scoliosis since 17years back now i am 36yr old. I have" s' shaped scoliosis up 22degrees and down 34degree. I didn't experianced severe pain but feel more discomfort on my posture. If i consultant chiropractor possible to come straight...

    1. Our CLEAR doctors have worked with many people in your position. Our goal is to reduce and stabilize your scoliosis. Without any type or examination or looking over your x-rays, it would be difficult to predict what type of success you may have.

  7. I have begun to be treated by a chiropractor who has done x-rays of my spine. It showed scoliosis and she wants to treat me for it, however it would be rather expensive for weekly treatments (since my insurance will not cover them). I am 78 and have a lot of shoulder and neck pain which has been chronic for years. With everything considered, do you think treatments would be very helpful?

    1. Hello, Gwyn,
      Unfortunately, most chiropractors who do not specialize in scoliosis treatment or have taken advanced training in scoliosis care beyond chiropractic college have little to no success in treating a scoliosis unless it is very mild. If it is anything beyond that, I would suggest treatment with one of our CLEAR Scoliosis Institute doctors or a chiropractic doctor who has training in scoliosis treatment. The correct type of treatment could very well reduce your symptoms; however, if it is not done correctly I cannot say whether or not it would help with your symptoms. Our CLEAR Scoliosis Institute Doctors have specialized equipment in their offices that helps to rehabilitate the scoliosis to stabilize and oftentimes reduce the curvature of the spine. To find the CLEAR Scoliosis Institute doctor closest to you, please visit our website under "Find a Doctor". Best of luck to you.

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CLEAR Scoliosis Centers are privately owned and operated chiropractic clinics. Doctors at CLEAR Scoliosis Centers are personally responsible for all clinical decision making. CLEAR Scoliosis Institute, a nonprofit organization, does not have any authority over the clinic, make any clinical recommendations, or dictate patient care.
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