E19: Scoliosis Risk Factors

E19: Scoliosis Risk Factors Image

Join Life Beyond the Curve Host Ashley Brewer and CLEAR-certified Dr. Dio Kim for Episode 19 as they discuss scoliosis risk factors.

By tuning in you'll hear:

  • All about the different levels of severity of scoliosis.
  • Why scoliosis progression is a risk factor and a major aspect for consideration.
  • Some of the scoliosis risk factors associated with severe scoliosis including lung impairment.
  • How balance and proprioception can be affected by scoliosis.
  • Why the emotional impact of scoliosis should always be considered.

Enjoy the show!

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Do you have a question for Dr. Dio? Leave a comment below, and we'll make sure it gets to him. We may even cover your question on a future episode of Life Beyond the Curve.

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Articles by Dr. Dio

Podcast by Dr. Dio

Episode Transcript

Ashley B (00:00):

Hello, and welcome to Episode 19 of Life Beyond the Curve. I'm Ashley Brewer, your host. Today I'll be joined by CLEAR-certified Dr. Dio Kim from Tustin, California. In addition to his CLEAR certification, Dr. Dio specializes in sports and pediatric chiropractic. He holds a DICCP, a board certified credential in pediatrics for DCs who specialize in children, from infants to teenagers. He also holds a diplomate from the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians, or a DACBSP. Today, Dr. Dio and I will discuss scoliosis risk factors. Episode 19, let's go!

Intro (00:54):

You're listening to Life Beyond the Curve, a podcast brought to you by CLEAR Scoliosis Institute. Each week, we interview experts in the industry, answer your pressing questions, and empower you to take control of your scoliosis diagnosis and live life to its fullest. Enjoy the show.

Ashley B (01:26):

Dr. Dio, thank you so much for joining me today on Life Beyond the Curve.

Dr. Kim (01:31):

Yeah, Thank you so much for having me today.

Ashley B (01:34):

Now, today we are going to be talking about scoliosis risk factors and before we get into the actual risk factors associated with scoliosis, I think it's really important for our listeners to understand the different levels of severity of scoliosis. Can you explain a little bit about mild, moderate, and severe scoliosis?

Dr. Kim (02:01):

Uh, yes. Sure. Um, when, um, you meet a doctor for scoliosis condition, um, he will diagnosis scoliosis if the Cobb angle is greater than 10 degrees with a rotation of a vertebrae. Um, the doctor would look at the x-rays and measure the Cobb angles in degrees that is taken from the most tilted vertebrae above and below the apex of the curve. And, uh, in general, there are three levels of severity with the scoliosis. Um, it's like mild, moderate, and severe. And mild curvature is between 10 and 25 degrees, and moderate curve is between 25 to 40 degrees. And severe curve is greater than 40 degrees. Um, pretty much like that's how most of the doctors categorize the level of the scoliosis.

Ashley B (02:57):

Now often I've heard that when it comes to a mild scoliosis, so something that falls between that range of 10 to 25 degrees, like you just said, the patient often doesn't experience a lot of functional limitations or a lot of symptoms, but because scoliosis is a progressive condition, that progression in and of itself brings its own risks. Can you explain the progression of scoliosis and the most common times for scoliosis to progress?

Dr. Kim (03:35):

Yes. Uh, as you said, uh, it's difficult to notice a mild scoliosis because he has a little or low, no limitations or symptoms, and it can be easily ignored until the curvature becomes bigger, and as the curvature progresses, um, one, we're starting to notice asymmetric or changes of the posture, rib humping, or changes in gait. And if the progression still continues and become more severe, um, one will start to notice some impairments as well, especially on lungs, joints, nerves, have some balance issue or a digestive issues as well. And the growth is number one trigger factors for progression, and that's why adolescents are higher risk of the experience of rapid progressions.

Ashley B (04:33):

So is it fair to say that the more severe and the more progressive a case of scoliosis is, the more risk factors it would have?

Dr. Kim (04:44):

Yes. Um, there are more complicated risk factors presenting in severe scoliosis cases. And I agree with that.

Ashley B (04:53):

Okay. So let's talk about some of the risk factors associated with the more severe forms of scoliosis. I think you just hinted at a couple of them and in a recent article that you wrote for CLEAR, you talk specifically about lung impairment with severe scoliosis. Can you share more about that risk factor that can be associated with scoliosis?

Dr. Kim (05:18):

Uh, yes. Uh, um, when scoliosis progresses, um, especially in the middle back area, uh, the vertebrae rotates, and it causes the ribcage deformities like, uh, um, rib humping. Um, when this happens, you will notice that one side of the rib cage is more prominent and since your lungs are protected under the rib cages, these asymmetric or deformity can cause the extra, putting extra pressure on the lungs and affects lung volume and make it harder to breathe. So one may experience a shallow breathe, or can not easily take the deep breath in and out.

Ashley B (06:04):

So I actually got to witness somebody doing some of the breathing tests that are often associated with scoliosis, and that was the first time that I ever began to understand that breathing impairment or lung impairment, could it potentially be a scoliosis risk factor. So, thank you for shedding some light on that for our listeners today. Now another issue or risk factor that can be associated with scoliosis is balance problems. Can you explain how scoliosis may affect an individual living with scoliosis and their balance?

Dr. Kim (06:42):

Uh, yeah. Um, in more severe scoliosis, um, your weight distributions become more asymmetrical and, uh, you know, affects the overall biomechanics of the spine and related joints. So it will be more difficult to balance with the more severe scoliosis. Uh, moreover, um, the bigger scoliosis curvature that affects the, your, um, proprioception. Um, as you know, uh, proprioception is the body's ability to orient itself in space without the visual cues. And that's why it is common to observe when people with a severe scoliosis who have difficulty stand on one leg with eyes closed.

Ashley B (07:29):

It's funny that you bring that up because that was another test that I saw them do when I got the opportunity to visit a CLEAR Scoliosis Center was seeing them try and balance on one leg or march in place with their eyes closed. And just seeing how scoliosis can throw off their proprioception, it was actually, it was pretty amazing to see how different it was once they closed their eyes. So another thing that has really surprised me and may surprise some of our listeners is that digestive issues can be another risk factor. You talk about that in the article you wrote for CLEAR. How can scoliosis potentially impact someone's digestion?

Dr. Kim (08:12):

Yeah. Scoliosis can be related to, uh, digestive issues because, um, it affects the spinal cord and the nerve system. Um, scoliosis curves and, uh, those tilted vertebraes are commonly formed in the thoracic and lumbar spine regions. And those tilted vertebrae can create more pressure to joints and the nerves that are coming out from the spinal frame. And, and when you look at the spine, uh, a pair of, um, nerve coming off from the each vertebrae level, uh, through the foramen and they connect to organs such as the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. And when those pressure builds up on that nerve, it can lead to dysfunctions to the connected organ, which can cause constipation, stomach pain, heartburns, or similar symptoms.

Ashley B (09:11):

That makes sense that, you know, all of your messages run from your brain to your body. So if in that area, some of the nerves go to your digestive system, it would make sense that some people may experience digestive issues. Now, the one that I'd like to talk about next is actually one that I believe is very often overlooked, or not considered, or not given enough time. And that's the area of emotional stress. Can you talk about how scoliosis can impact psychological health or cause emotional stress for an individual living with scoliosis?

Dr. Kim (09:54):

Yes. Um, the most, uh, rapid scoliosis progression, uh, it happens during the puberty, and teenagers are very sensitive to their appearance. And when, when those teenagers with a scoliosis feel their appearance is different from their peers, their self-esteem will be very limited and it will be reduced, and emotional stress and anxiety would be increased intentionally. Um, moreover, uh, if, scoliosis progresses rapidly and they do not know what to do about it because they do not have much information about scoliosis and the treatment options, uh, they can lose their hope and easy to become depressed, and that can affect to focus on their schoolwork and cause them fall behind.

Ashley B (10:49):

I have a 14 year old daughter. And so, first and foremost, I know that being 14, even just in today's world in and of itself can be very difficult. But yeah, when you add on top of that, some of the things that you were just talking about when now, A, they're already comparing themselves to social media, which isn't real, it's fake, people with filters and making themselves look perfect, but then you add on top of that, the potential just physical changes that scoliosis can bring, I can see how someone may lose hope and become depressed in a situation like that. So all of these things that we've talked about today, whether it's the digestive issues or the balance issues, all of those things, they sound like not fun, obviously. And especially when we consider the psychological impact that that can have. So what I'm hearing and what I'm thinking is, Oh my goodness, thank goodness CLEAR doctors can help with scoliosis, because by helping with scoliosis, maybe some of these things may begin to resolve themselves as the body is able to function more and more at an optimum state. So I know that because I know a lot about CLEAR doctors, but if someone is listening today and they are worried about some of the risk factors associated with scoliosis, what advice would you give to them?

Dr. Kim (12:31):

Yes. Um, most of the people are just concerned about the curvatures, uh, in degrees, which is in the number, but we're so, we just talked about it. You know, uh, quality of life is very important among, um, scoliosis patients and lots of them, you know, they don't know much of the information about scoliosis, especially when they're looking into conservative way to treating scoliosis. There are not many informations out there, so they have some hard time to choose the right treatment options for themselves. So, um, I think the best thing I can give them advice or, uh, is, um, just to look for some, or contact and one of the doors, uh, CLEAR-certified doctors and discuss about the, your concerns because they are the expert on, uh, scoliosis. And, um, it is very important key factors that the early detections and, uh, treatments when the curvature is smaller, the results are going to be a lot better than when you start seeing severe cases. So I definitely and strongly recommend all the people who had any question and concern about the scoliosis, just contact one of our CLEAR-certified doctors.

Ashley B (13:49):

I couldn't agree with you more, Dr. Dio, quality of life is, is so, so important. And I think it's something that is maybe inadvertently overlooked because maybe patients don't even realize that something going on with them could be related to their scoliosis. In addition to that, like you said, many patients are not aware of the conservative or alternative approaches to treating scoliosis, like the CLEAR approach. It's so often that people are told, watch and wait until surgery, or surgery is the only solution, or traditional bracing is the only route. And we are here today because there are other options. And so I agree with your recommendations. If you have questions, find a CLEAR doctor, contact a CLEAR doctor, they are trained in a non-invasive, effective approach to treating scoliosis. So Dr. Dio, thank you so much for joining us today. It is always a pleasure to have you, and we look forward to having you again on a future episode.

Dr. Kim (15:01):

Thank you very much. And it was my pleasure.

Ashley B (15:04):

Thank you. You have a great day.

Dr. Kim (15:07):

Okay. Thank you very much.

Ashley B (15:10):

To find more information about scoliosis, risk factors, visit clear-institute.org and sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of the page. There's more to come next week.



CLEAR photo

Author: Dr. Dio Kim

Dr. Dio Kim graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic West in 2000 and practices in Tustin, California. He has been CLEAR Certified since 2011. Among the many certifications allowing him to be recognized as a CLEAR Fellow are the Cox Technic, Kinesio Taping, ScoliBrace, Scientific Exercise Approach to Scoliosis (SEAS) Level 1, and many more. Dr. Dio specializes in scoliosis, sports, and pediatric chiropractic. He holds a Diplomate in Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics (DICCP) and Diplomate American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians (DACBSP®). The DICCP is a board-certified credential in pediatrics for doctors of chiropractic who specialize in children, from infants to teenagers. Moreover, he is one of only a few chiropractors invited by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committees (USOPC) to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to treat elite athletes. He is a graduate of the World Masters of Scoliosis Conservative Treatment from ISICO, and is also a licensed acupuncturist.
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