In Episode 33, host Heather Rotunda and Dr. Justin discuss what scoliosis and scoliosis pain feel like.
Throughout the episode, you'll hear:
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Hello, and welcome toEpisode 33 of Life Beyond the Curve. I'm your host, Heather Rotunda. Joining me again today to discuss the topic, "Scoliosis Symptoms: How to Know if You Have Scoliosis" is Dr. Justin Dick of Clear Life Scoliosis Reduction and Chiropractic in Huntersville, North Carolina. Dr. Justin has been with CLEAR since 2018 and is both Standard and Intensive certified. It's always a treat speaking with Dr. Justin and I'm sure you'll learn as much from him in this episode as I did. Episode 33, 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.
Thank you for joining us again today, Dr. Justin.
Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this very important topic.
Today we're talking about scoliosis symptoms and how to know if you have scoliosis. So let's start by focusing on scoliosis symptoms in children. What should parents look for?
Well, great question, because oftentimes I have young people come in here to the office of Clear Life Scoliosis Chiropractic, uh, and they are just blown away by what happens. "We were swimming on in August at the pool, and didn't notice anything, and then a month later, the scoliosis just popped up outta nowhere." That's generally the ca-- the case of what calls calls into the office like, "oh my goodness, what happened?" Uh, scoliosis introduces a lot of uneven forces into the body. The condition's telltale early signs in children involve the body's overall symmetry. Some of the signs of scoliosis to watch for are uneven shoulders, one shoulder blade protruding more on one side than the other, development of a rib arch, uneven hips, uneven waistline, and arms and legs that appear to, to hang at different lengths. In addition, as the body's symmetry is disrupted, clothing can become ill-fitting with asymmetrical arm, leg length and neck lines favoring one side. Balance, equilibrium, and coordination can also be affected as a person's gait is disturbed.
Okay. You've said that growth triggers progression. So if a seven or eight year old, for example, has, is, or suspected of having scoliosis, should the parents wait until the child has gone through puberty and is reaching the end of their growth phase because, well, Hey, it's gonna progress during that time anyway?
Great question. For children and adolescents who have not yet reached skeletal maturity, they're at risk for rapid phase progression due to the phase of growth and development they are entering into. For children and adolescents, managing the progression is key to preventing increased condition severity and escalating symptoms and the need for invasive treatment in the future. While there are never treatment guarantees, early detection can increase chances for treatment success. The treatment of mild scoliosis involves less complexity, and when the spine is more flexible because of the significant progression has not occurred and the body is not yet adjusted to an unnatural curve.
So are the symptoms to watch for going to be the same in adults as they are in children, or are there different symptoms to be watching for?
Unlike the child and adolescent experience of scoliosis, pain is the main symptom of scoliosis in adults. As adults have reached skeletal maturity, their spines have settled due to the growth and maturity, which is when scoliosis becomes a comprehensive condition. When the spine is exposed to a compression, so, too, is its surrounding muscles and nerves. This would cause varying levels of back, muscle, and radicular pain, which means radiating pain. It travels from one area to another.
Can scoliosis develop in adults or are cases of adult scoliosis cases that began when they were younger and just went undiagnosed until they got older?
Great question. The most prevalent type of scoliosis to affect adults is idiopathic, which means we have no idea. <laugh> These cases are extensions of AIS that went undiagnosed and untreated during adolescence. In many cases, these patients matured with scoliosis. They were unaware, and as the condition became compressive, it started to cause noticeable symptoms, like pain. This is what brings on the majority of adult patients into the office for diagnosis and treatment. Generally accepted thought that these patients been diagnosed earlier and proactive treatment provided in adolescence, their condition and severity may have never progressed to the state that they're currently in. This is why finding and identifying scoliosis earlier in life is so important. We can help manage a scoliosis as the body continues. Kinda like, um, we'll say your hair, right? A female does their hair, they dye their hair, it grows out, right? But the minute you stop managing your hair, it gets all kinds of crazy.
<laugh> Yes, it does.
The same happens in scoliosis. We can help manage scoliosis, but the minute you quit managing it, it will get crazy. This is why early intervention is the most, uh, important. We can help manage it, reduce it and stabilize it before it gets crazy.
That's a great comparison. We've talked before about healthy curves, the body's natural curves. Can you talk to us about what the spine's natural curves do and what happens when unnatural curves are introduced? I know that's what scoliosis is, the unnatural curves and rotation. But aside from the visible aspect, what's going on inside when the spine's natural curves are interfered with?
Uh, great question, and we're gonna tackle this from a couple different angles. First, we'd like to talk about the nerves on, uh, the limbs of a tree. They're branched off in multiple directions. Even if a nerve is irritated at its root in the spine, its effects can radiate throughout the body and are commonly felt in the legs and feet. For example, when the condition develops along the lumbar spine, which is the low back, the "sciatica" can become a, a common symptom of scoliosis in adults. The pains felt along the pathway of the sciatic nerve, the lower back, buttock, back leg, down into the foot, due to scoliotic, uh, nerve impingement with a sciatic nerve. In addition, as the muscles that surround the spine struggle to provide it with support as it bends and twist unnaturally, it can become tight and painful. Headaches that reach migraine status can also be a symptom of scoliosis in different ages. This is due to disruptions of the flow of cerebral spinal fluids in and around the brain and the upper neck area. Um, if left untreated, and or in severe cases, scoliosis may cause, uh, myriad of psychologic symptoms. Those individuals with scoliosis can experience sleep problems, digestive issues, and lung impairments.
Can you delve more into the whole nervous system as impacted by scoliosis?
Sure can. Uh, more importantly than the soliotic curve itself is the nervous system. So your brain sits up top and send signals all the way down through your spine. The nervous system is the only organ that's completely encased by bones. It's how important this is. So the brain sits up top and send signals all the way down through the spine, every level of the spine, the nerves come out, they go to all different organs and cells. They control everything you do. Even Gray's Anatomy, not the TV show, Dr. McDreamy, Dr. McSteamy, Gray's Anatomy, the textbook, every doctor has to learn from says, every organ is under direct control of the nervous system. So imagine if the brain sends signals down, but we'll say in the mid-back, we're having issues with the communication from the mid-back to the organ, the organ can't talk to their brain, the brain can't talk to the organ because there's a scoliosis there.
Now, the communication between the brain and the body isn't working anymore. Hence the symptoms that we see, hence, this is why symptomology is, it's a piece of scoliosis, but there is no symptom that's the same. We know that this nerve coming out here at this level of the spine goes with these organs. Most likely you're going to have some of these symptoms at some point in your life. Now, when we're looking at the spine from the side, which is way more important, you're supposed to have good curves in your neck, good curves in your ribs, and good curves in your low back. When you lose those good curves, the body has to induce bad curves. This is why it's so important to treat the entire spine in a 3D model, not just treat the spine from the front where we have a curve out to the side, cuz this scoliosis is almost by definition rotation of the spine. It must be treated in 3D. This is why it's so important to have specific treatments for patient-specific and not a one size fits all.
Okay. That makes sense. Quick question. Um, you had referred to sciatica. So if someone who has not been diagnosed with scoliosis is dealing with sciatica, would it behoove them to get checked for scoliosis?
Uh, great question. And the answer is always yes. Um, a chiropractor should always be checking your body. Not necessarily always adjust that you're doing therapies, but we wanna make sure that your neurology and the spine is functioning as optimum. It doesn't always involve an adjustments or therapies. If your body's not functioning at its optimum, the goal of a chiropractor is to help the body to function better. This can be done through chiropractic care. It can be done through a various of reasons. Now, right now you're speaking about sciatica, the sciatica, the sciatic nerve, and sciatic impingement can be from various different reasons. Um, the sciatic nerve comes out of the low back, travels down your legs and pretty much controls your legs, right? So if that nerve is having issues, you're going to feel symptoms. Sometimes it's numbness. Sometimes it's burning. Sometimes it's extreme pain, is what we've seen a lot lately during, uh, the last, uh, quote, last we'll call it, quote unquote, pandemic, whatever you wanna call it.
Uh, we've seen a lot more of this because people are sitting a lot more. When you're seated, your discs take 30% more pressure on the low back, which means there's more pressure on the nervous system. There's more pressure on the piriformis muscles. There's more pressure, more problems that can arise when we're seated. This is not the ideal situation for scoliosis patients as a whole. It doesn't mean because you have sciatic symptoms that you have scoliosis, but it does mean your body's not functioning properly. So my recommendation would always be to go see your chiropractor, your local chiropractor. In particular, if you get to see a CLEAR doctor, we have a better understanding of how the body functions, scoliosis functions and, uh, therapies and treatments to help better you quicker.
Okay. Uh, do you have any advice for people who would like to see a CLEAR doctor, but they don't have one within easy driving distance?
That's a really good question as well. Cause this is a tough question. Um, many there's I think, uh, 18, uh, Intensive Certified doctors, I think through the CLEAR program. Um, and most of us are spread throughout the United States. There's a couple international, uh, but there's, there's not too many of us. Uh, one, hands down, no doubt in my mind, number one thing you need to do is get one of us on a phone call. Uh, sit one of us down and talk about what's going on in your body. There might be some super simple things that you can do at home to negate some of your symptoms until you can get in for treatments. There might be somebody we can help point you to that might help be able to help you while you're at home. Many of us doctors have, uh, patients that travel from all over the country to see us.
Uh, I think for instance, the closest doctor me to me is a couple hundred miles away. Uh, so most of my patients travel like an hour to get to me. Uh, but number one thing I'd ask them to do is get one of us on the phone, get us on a Zoom call. Um, come see us for our consultation and we'll see if we can help you in your current state, whether that be nutrition, whether it be hooking you up with a local chiropractor, uh, wherever we can do to help. I, I know that we're all here for you.
Great. Are there any final thoughts you'd like to share with the listeners today?
Um, well recognizing the condition's early signs is important in terms of early detection. The only way to definitively know if you have scoliosis is to be assessed or diagnosed by a medical professional. Regardless of age, the best time to start treatment is always now. As progressive, as a progressive condition, a person's scoliosis severity at the time of diagnosis is not an indication of where it will stay. However, the benefits of early detection are always only available to those who respond to diagnosis with proactive treatment. There is hope. At Clear Life Scoliosis R,eduction we've seen lives transformed and restored through the use of the CLEAR protocols. When modern medicine says it's impossible, we see overcomers.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Dr. Justin, this has been fascinating. I always learn so much from you. We hope you'll join us again soon.
If you've received a diagnosis and want to pursue alternative treatment, go to clear-institute.org and click on the purple Find a Doctor button at the top of the page, search by your location, and find the doctor nearest you. More to come next week!