In Episode 24, host Heather Rotunda and Dr. Justin discuss mild scoliosis, its symptoms, and treatment.
Throughout the episode, you'll hear:
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Hello, and welcome to Episode 24 of Life Beyond the Curve. I'm your host, Heather Rotunda, and today I'm joined by Dr. Justin Dick of Clear Life Scoliosis Reduction & Chiropractic in Huntersville, North Carolina, to discuss the topic, What is Mild Scoliosis? Dr. Justin graduated from Ferris State University with a major in Healthcare Systems & Administration and Nuclear Medicine before receiving his Doctorate of Chiropractic from Sherman College. He's been with CLEAR since 2018 and has been certified in both Standard and Intensive Care. I'm sure you'll enjoy the conversation with Dr. Justin as much as I did. Episode 24, here we go!
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.
Dr. Justin, thank you for joining us today.
Thank you for having me.
So today's topic is mild scoliosis, but before we get into the mild classification, can you explain to us what scoliosis is?
So the scoliosis, uh, most commonly is referred to as a sideward curvature of the spine. So when you're looking at somebody from the front to the back on an x-ray, most people regard scoliosis as the sideways curvature, but it's much more complex than that. Scoliosis is actually a three dimensional curve. Uh, it's actually coiling in the spine. As the spine rotates, it can cause changes in the appearance of the ribs, the shoulders, the hips, and it can overall lead to general discomfort and health problems, as we know. Um, and for someone to be diagnosed with scoliosis, it generally has to have a curve off the, A to P, which is the front to back x-ray or the P to A, depending on how your doctor takes it. Um, and we can see that curve over 10 degrees, it's classified as scoliosis. Now that's just a term, it doesn't mean that's who you are, it's just a term that doctors use, um, and we can do something about it. Those parameters, once those parameters are met, uh, then you can kinda go for a future classification of mild, moderate to severe scoliosis.
Okay. So if you have the curve in the spine, but not the rotation, then you don't have scoliosis, correct?
Correct, correct. And so what most, what most doctors, uh, many doctors don't understand and what's, uh, I was taught in school is this, we'll get it a little bit more in depth here, um, is scoliosis is that lateral, that sideways bend to the curve, but it must incorporate torsion. It must incorporate the, the turning of the spine. That that's actually what scoliosis is. So when you see, uh, doctor says, you have rotation of your spine, say, thanks. I, I, I understand that, that's what scoliosis said, but more importantly, through the CLEAR Institutes, uh, this is one thing that you only get through the teaching of Dr. Woggon, Dr. Nalda, some of the, the, some of the giants that we learned with, is you are missing the good curves of the spine. So if you're looking at the spine from the side view, so if the teeth are in the front and the heads in the back, you must have a good curve in the neck, a good curve where your ribs are, and a good curve in your low back.
Uh, once you start losing those curves, the body starts turning and rotating, and those good curves have to go somewhere, you know? "Somewhere" is a scoliosis. It starts inducing bad curves. In my practice, I've never had a scoliosis patient that didn't have a problem with a good curve, 100% of the time, you have a problem with a good curve and it forces a body into placing bad curves. Those curves have to go somewhere. So imagine taking a rubber band, stretching it out and then turning it, turning it, turning it, turning it, turning it. Eventually, that rubber band has so much torsion, so much pressure in it that that rubber band kicks out to the side. Correct?
Exact same thing in, in the spine, it's the exact same concepts. So just bringing the curves in from the side, like most doctors wanna believe can happen, doesn't actually fix a problem. It just brings the curve in from the side. It's not adressing cause issues.
Okay. The rubber band, uh, explanation is excellent. That's a great way to put it. So do we know what causes scoliosis?
Now, that's a really, really good question. Um, and the answer is sometimes <laugh>. Um, most scoliosis, uh, is classified as idiopathic. Uh, going through school, my doctorate program, I memorized idiopathic as "we have no idea". Um, there are some scoliosis that we do know why, there's congenital scoliosis, there's traumatic, there's X, Y, and Z that we are familiar with, but by and large, most scoliosis is classified as idiopathic. Um, and it can be classified as mild, moderate, severe, um, and continue from there. Uh, we do know that scoliosis has a tendency to run in families. However, it's my belief that it is not genetic. There's not one single gene that has been caused, shown to cause scoliosis. Scoliosis has many different factors that are involved in this. And so for a variety of reasons, um, you know, we can find scoliosis based on different things, but there's a lot more than just, than just the scoliosis itself. Uh, the congenital factors can be like a bone defect or certain disease can play, the cerebral palsy has scoliosis or, um, uh, there there's various Angelman syndrome has ligament laxity. These allow the bones to move a lot more freely than we can than what we'd hope to have, um, in, in the body, which can induce different types of spinal, uh, abnormalities.
Okay. So, um, my great-aunt had what was called scoliosis, um, after being with CLEAR all this time, I think it was actually more of a, uh, what is it? Scheuermann's Kyphosis, because it was right up at the, uh, top of her back and it developed when she was a teenager and the family story is that it was caused when some of her classmates pounded on her back. Is that even possible?
That is possible, uh, you know, without proper x-rays and proper findings to say what's actually happening. That is definitely possible. Um, you know, when you're looking at spinal abnormalities, so every doctor knows what the proper spine is supposed to look like. Every doctor's taught what it's supposed to look like. Every doctor is told that when the spine doesn't look like it's supposed to, that the body's not functioning like it's supposed to, right? This is where CLEAR comes in. It doesn't look like it's supposed to, let's start forcing it back into and having the body heal properly back to where it's supposed to. So, uh, in, in your family's case, if there was an abnormality, if somebody was pounding on their back and they fractured a bone, we're dealing with more of a structural abnormality there, so that it can induce an issue rather than a body inducing an issue.
We had an outside source that induced an issue there. So even in that, the, the goal is still have the body to go back closer to where it should be. We know when we take a bad x-ray and the body starts going back to where we think it should be, the body starts healing, right? Structure determines function, the structure of something determines what it's good for. The structure of a truck determines if you can get to point A to point B, the structure of an airplane does the same thing, the structure of a hammer does the same thing. The structure determines function. We all know this, but very few doctors actually learn how to do it.
Right. All right. So you mentioned the different classifications, mild, moderate, severe. Why is it important to classify? Why isn't it just good enough, Hey, I've got scoliosis. I need to get it fixed. Why do we need the classifications?
Now, this is a whole podcast in itself here, but, well, let's, let's just talk about some real basics. So scoliosis is classified, in the interest of streamlining treatments and for informing the design and the effectiveness of the treatment plans. Uh, if this person's diagnosed with scoliosis, this means they have a progressive structural spinal condition that involves the development of an unnatural sideways spinal curvature. Right? Uh, progressive means that the condition's nature is going to mean is going to continue to get worse over time. Cause we know historically scoliosis progresses at at least one degree a year, uh, historically. Now when we start looking at the diagnosis and the classifications, when we look at the younger population, um, we are looking at the bending and torsion of the spine and more importantly, the nervous system. By the way, I, I care more about the nervous system than I do about the spine itself, but the nervous system's encased in the spine. So you have to address the spine to work with a nervous system. So to, in an effort to address the streamline of the treatment process and design an effective treatment, we have to have an assessment to clearly identify how aggressive the scoliosis might be, um, and how to diagnose and the causation, the severity, uh, and some of the key points of the scoliosis. This is why we have different, uh, ranges that we work with.
What is, what are the ranges of mild scoliosis?
Gotcha. So, so mild, um, can tend to be, uh, it depends on doctor to doctor. Uh, it starts with 10 degrees for sure, and kind of goes up to 20 degrees. Mostly, you know, most medical guidelines will say, uh, that it goes up to a Cobb angle, which is how you measure it. So the lowest tilted vertebra and the highest tilted vertebra and measure those together, and it'll be between 10 and 20 degrees. Um, now these guidelines don't take into account the patient's age or their health status, um, which is a whole nother correlation as well as, as the physical piece of this. So the Cobb angle is only one number that doesn't identify who you are or how this impacts your body. Some people can walk around with a 50 degree curve, which is classified as, as severe scoliosis and live a quote unquote completely normal life. Other people, a 10 degree curve may impact them harshly. So the degree and severity of the curve doesn't necessarily indicate how this impacts your life. We know without a doubt, 100%, your body will be impacted. There will be neurological deficits, which is going to lead to functional deficits, but how this impacts you is different than how it impacts the next person.
Okay. So what are the symptoms or signs of, of mild scoliosis?
Gotcha. Mild scoliosis. Now these are, many times, subtle and don't often cause functional deficits for the most part. Uh, mild scoliosis is, it takes a lot to detect that, a specialist, somebody like myself, most of the time, or, uh, an orthopedist, who are amazing doctors, by the way, uh, to, to work with us. The early signs of mild scoliosis are postural changes, for the most part. They can affect the overall symmetry of the body. Uh, but as mild, it means smaller abnormal curvature. So most of these postural changes are going to be like uneven shoulders or one shoulder blade that protrudes more than the other if you're looking at it from the back, or an uneven waist, or maybe the hips don't, don't align up. So maybe one hip sits higher than the other.
Is there pain associated with mild scoliosis, generally speaking? Or is that just case by case, too?
Uh, there can be. Um, when you're talking about adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, which is historically, I believe found to age 12, generally, there's not a whole lot of pain at that time. As the body progresses, as we age, the spine has a tendency to get much more rigid. Uh, the ligaments, the, uh, the disc, the muscle surrounding it become much more rigid, and then the pain will settle in. So, uh, depending on which book you read, the nervous system is, uh, only about 20 to 30% of it's pain, right? So by the time pain settles in, you already have an issue. So when do you feel a heart attack? When do you feel cancer? When do you feel broken bone? By the time you feel pain, it's too late, right? It's too late. So we wanna work on the body before you feel pain because pain's coming.
It's just a matter of time. Pain will come. If you don't address the issues, the core issues, pain will come, but pain is kind of a symptom of something greater. We wanna address the scoliosis as early as possible. That way we don't, we don't have pain later on. We can stabilize the spine. We can reduce the scoliosis and stabilize it. You can get the best function out of your body possible. Cuz at the end of the day, all of us doctors, we're all talking about quality of life. We want your best quality you can, regardless if you have scoliosis or whatever diagnosis, we want the best quality. And in my opinion, the best quality can be the best functioning nervous system. The body was designed to heal. If we give it a chance.
Uh, does mild scoliosis always progress?
Um, it doesn't, you know, scoliosis, doesn't always progress. Um, I'm giving you historical values. So we got one degree a year. That doesn't mean that this is going to progress. Once you start getting up into 25, 30 degrees, that is, you know, a high risk area of progression, very high risk. Uh, when we're at mild scoliosis, 10 degrees to 20 degrees, it's a lower risk of progression. But again, historically it will progress. Um, you know, it's very tough to say if yours exactly is going to progress or not. Uh, because you're an individual, there is no scoliosis that's the same. There is virtually almost an infinite number of scoliosis. Now that's not a true number, but there is not one person that I've ever treated that's the same as the next. This is why even with mild scoliosis, you still have to adapt care specific for that patient because their body is different and will adapt differently.
So what is the traditional approach to treatment? Like if someone were diagnosed as having mild scoliosis and they just went to their MD or a regular chiropractor or an orthopedist, what would treatment look like?
Gotcha. This is a great question. Uh, another podcast in itself. I have this almost every day because the medical model, which I'll just say for the instance per here, we have the best medical doctors in the world, hands down, hands down, best orthopods, best ER doctors. They are amazing physicians, but when it comes to scoliosis and what we're trying to do here, I believe that we have difference of opinions on how the body should be treated. So the medical model, um, typical medical doctors, DOs, uh, their traditional approach is more of a passive monitoring. Wait, see what happens, maybe brace at 30 degrees. Until we can do surgery, the medical model says we're just gonna wait for the most part. It's a wait and see approach. So during that waiting time, most doctors will agree, this scoliosis will progress. Historically it does progress. Um, so with traditional chiropractic, the benefit is, you know, that not everybody addresses scoliosis, however, they are getting the spine moving.
So all chiropractic works. Almost all of it works. Some of it works much better than others, even for a traditional chiropractor though, that treats, quote unquote treats scoliosis, very few of 'em have verifiable and reproducible results. This is why I love CLEAR so much. This is why I just fell in love with CLEAR and the teachings. It's cuz there is a test at the beginning and there is a test at the end. Good, bad or ugly, we're gonna look at 'em and they have reproducible, verifiable results that anybody independent checker can look at them and say, yes, this change happened. More importantly, I can talk to the patient and say, your life has changed. You came off your medications, you're able to golf again, your functions changed. So one of the things I, I, that I use in my office is a functional rating index. I can't tell you how many patients come in with a high functional rating index. This is a disability index of being virtually disabled. You know, they're 40 years old, they're almost disabled. Two months later, their, their functional rating index is, you know, within, within a normal range, they can function again. They get their life back again. They can pick their children up. They can go golfing again. This is game changing. This is the important stuff.
Wow. That's, that's fantastic. So we just talked about what traditional treatment looks like. What is different about treatment with you as a CLEAR doctor? So what does uh, care look like for a patient in your clinic?
Gotcha. Gotcha. So as a here at Clear Life Scoliosis Reduction and Chiropractic, we do our best work to work with our patients and referring physicians, uh, to, and we're really committed to their health. So while nobody can guarantee treatment results, cuz everybody's a little bit different, our measured results, they do speak for themselves. We offer treatment methods that allow our patients to take control of their health and change their life forever. That is their goal. Our unique nonsurgical treatments allows us to get the body to function better through our Mix, Fix, and Set, through the CLEAR institute. Um, we're effective, we're results-oriented and you know, we're committed to treating not just the scoliosis, but the patients, the patient's body as a whole, regardless of their age, that you know, their residents, their sever, their scoliosis. Uh, we want to make sure that the body, that the, the patient has a good, positive experience.
Um, and so our program includes, you know, x-rays taken before and after treatments, assessment of the probabilities for scoliosis progression, chiropractic adjustments, the Mix, which is the warm up of the body, the Fix, which is the adjustment of the body, and the Setting, which is treating, getting the body to realize that the changes have been made and for the changes the whole more. And then we teach some different home therapies, so that way we can get, uh, some positive results still, or at least stabilization after they leave our office. And then we do have follow ups. Unlike most doctors, we do follow ups. We wanna make sure that the patient is stabilizing or, or at least getting some better results after they leave our office. Cause there's home care to be done. We can only do so much time and so much changes in a small amount of time.
We wanna make sure the body continues to adapt and continues to heal after they leave our office. If they're from a distance away or while they're in our office, we get a little bit more hands-on approach for followup. Uh, we designed our programs with the understanding that scoliosis rehab is not like traditional rehab and it's very effective. Treatment options can be condensed. Um, and the duration can increase the intensity of treatments. Um, we offer, uh, really intensive programs in our office to a little bit less intensive. Uh, however, uh, those treatments, that just cuz it says intense doesn't mean it's uh, like jumping jacks. Um, intense means we are more hands-on multiple times a day or multiple times a week, uh, where we're making massive changes in the body, massive changes in the spine in a short amount of time for maximum results for the patient.
Okay. So with the followup, how often, or how, how frequently does that happen, or is that an individual thing? So someone may have to come back in three months, somebody else may not need to come back for six months?
Well, you know, that's a really good question. I, I I'd ask you, Heather, and it's the same thing I'm gonna ask every patient, how healthy do you wanna be?
So, so, uh, my goal is to help support. So if it's a referring doctor to help support the referring doctor, uh, the patient can come in, I want to make very good changes, sustainable changes, and help the referring doctor, uh, support them while they're at home for ongoing treatment options. And if the patient would like to come back and, uh, and do more treatment with me, uh, it is completely okay. Uh, I have multiple patients that have been to see me multiple times and still go back to their referring doctor. Why? Because they have a relationship. I'm really good at what we do here with CLEAR, but our goal is to be a supportive role with any referring patients, um, you know, to support their local physician and, and their endeavors cuz they know their body, they know the patient's body best. They know their family best. They're who they're gonna see day to day. Uh, if we have local patients, obviously I like to have hands-on a little bit more, uh, we can be a little bit more aggressive, uh, in the off treatment times and we can change treatments, uh, change, change, home care. We can change things a little bit, uh, easier if they're local.
Okay. Uh, you had mentioned that as part of the treatment there is chiropractic adjustment. CLEAR chiropractic adjustments are not the same adjustments that you get just from the chiropractor down the street, though, right?
That's a really tough question. <laugh> The answer is they, the adjustments themselves are the, the adjustments themselves are the exact same as what you're taught in school, but 100% different. Everything I learned up to engaging in CLEAR was taught one way; when I engaged in CLEAR and was taught by Dr. Nalda, Dr. Woggon, and some of, some of the, some of great doctors I've, I've continued to learn from, um, the adjustment is the exact same adjustment, but delivered differently. And so, uh, chiropractic school will say, you need to adjust this patient this way. And I know with a scoliosis patient, if I adjust them that way, we are going to make the scoliosis worse. I can take a lot of the same adjustments that I learned in school and apply them differently. So it doesn't mean that the adjustments are wrong. The application is incorrect. The application will not get you the desired results if you don't have the training, the specific training through the CLEAR Institute. This is why we have continued success, continued results. The application is much different. The, the adjustments are the same, but the application is 100% different.
Okay. I like that. It's the same, but different.
Uh, and again, all chiropractors are amazing by the way, they all have great results. But when it comes to scoliosis, the CLEAR Institute, uh, is the only scoliosis-specific chiropractic that's taught through a university that each year we have to come back and verify our results and submit case studies to say, Hey, we are doing this. We're not just saying we do it. We are doing this it's verifiable each year. This is why I love this organization. It's it is hands down very, very difficult to continue to maintain and say, yes, we are doing this. It's the only, it's the only organizations through chiropractic that's scoliosis-specific and taught through a university that has verifiable results.
All right. So what should someone do if they suspect that they or a loved one, uh, has scoliosis?
Ah, good question. Um, if you're questioning if you a loved one has scoliosis, uh, there's different ways to get the answers you're looking for. Uh, proactivity, being proactive is the most important, uh, choice that you can make. Retroactive means that, you know, there's already something wrong. So for proactive, when it comes to scoliosis, paying attention to the postural changes and a visit to specialists are the best ways to find out if your loved one does have scoliosis. If you're concerned that you do have scoliosis, uh, it's most likely cuz you're experiencing sign, symptoms, such as postural changes or maybe even some pain. Uh, in many cases it's almost impossible to spot the condition early on because it's not until the condition progresses in severity that symptoms become evident. So we would definitely wanna see a specialist, uh, sooner than later. Look for those signs and symptoms because in mild cases, if it's caught early, um, we can help stop it or at least limit the progression, um, of the signs, symptoms, as well as the Cobb angle itself. So a doctor, I always say to people, if you're worried about a potential medical issue, talk to a medical professional. There's no harm in asking questions and being proactive with your health. When the exams and tests turn up nothing, there's no harm done, but if the condition's left to progress, it can be much harder to treat than one caught early on, specifically in scoliosis, because it is such a high risk of progression in your adolescent years.
Well, to wrap up, do you have any final piece of advice, beyond what you just said, that you would like to leave with the listeners?
I, I definitely would. I've seen lives transformed and restored through the work with Clear Life Scoliosis Reduction and Chiropractic and the CLEAR Institutes. When modern medicine says that it's impossible, we've seen overcomers. That's powerful.
That is powerful. That's wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Dr. Justin, we look forward to having you again on a future episode.
Thank you for having me.
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