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 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 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.