Scoliosis Chiropractor: Does Specialization Matter?

scoliosis chiropractor

Most people may assume that your run-of-the-mill chiropractor is the best option for any sort of back problem, including even the most complicated conditions. But that logic can be faulty when it comes to scoliosis.

Although many believe that chiropractors are doctors of the spine, the actual definition is a healthcare professional who treats nerve issues with manipulations or adjustments to the spine. These adjustments are often extremely beneficial in alleviating back pain caused by things like pinched nerves, disc pain and sciatica. But chronic or long-term spinal conditions, like scoliosis, require some specialization.

A scoliotic spine is not your average spine, so adjustments that would be perfectly fine on a normal spine can worsen the curve or even injure a scoliotic spine. The average chiropractor isn’t necessarily an expert on scoliosis and its intricacies, and may not realize the damage that certain adjustments can cause. A scoliosis chiropractor, however, has knowledge of the complexities of a scoliotic spine and will be able to help.

Traditional Chiropractic Care Likely Won’t Help

A controversial method for treating scoliosis, traditional chiropractic care is most effective for short-term pain relief, such as headaches, neck pain and back pain. The results are not yet in as to whether or not traditional methods can reduce the Cobb angle in a scoliotic spine. Therefore, traditional chiropractic care is only recommended for people with small Cobb angles (20 degrees or less) who’ve finished growing. In order to treat scoliosis with chiropractic adjustments, knowledge of the disorder is paramount.

Common chiropractic adjustments, such as pushing on the middle of the back or twisting the neck, can make the Cobb angle worse and even injure someone with scoliosis. For example, if you don’t have a normal backward curve in the middle of your back (loss of the thoracic kyphosis, also known as flatback syndrome), pushing on it in an attempt to manually create a natural curve (a common maneuver in traditional chiropractic treatment) will only aggravate the surrounding nerves and may actually make the curve worse. It’s also fairly common for someone with scoliosis to have joint hypermobility in the neck, causing it to be unstable. Twisting or turning an unstable neck is never a good idea and could aggravate the ligament instability in the neck of a person with scoliosis.

A Scoliosis Chiropractor Can Help

Even though traditional chiropractic care is not always the best option, you shouldn’t throw all chiropractic care out the window as a possible treatment method. Scoliosis-specific chiropractic adjustments can be incredibly beneficial to people in all walks of life. From adolescents to the elderly, adjustments made by a scoliosis expert can make a difference in both the Cobb angle and a person’s quality of life. Scoliosis-specific chiropractic adjustments are an excellent option for those looking to avoid a brace, surgery, or who want to experience positive lifestyle changes, such as improved breathing and posture.

By taking multiple X-rays of the spine, a scoliosis chiropractor can measure a person’s unique spinal curve and determine the best adjustments for the patient’s scoliotic curve. These adjustments, along with other alternative treatments, can work to stabilize and eventually improve the Cobb angle.

Adjustments are precise and gentle, taking into account any hypermobility or other issues unique to the scoliosis condition. Scoliosis chiropractors use a precision mechanical adjusting instrument to adjust the neck and other sensitive joints to ensure the most precise adjustment possible without any potentially harmful movements. Depending on the measurement of the spine in a person’s X-rays, a scoliosis chiropractor may perform adjustments on the neck, back, hips or all three.

The bottom line is that specialization does matter when it comes to scoliosis. A scoliosis chiropractor will know the specifics of the disease and how to treat sensitive areas with the necessary precision. But you may be wondering how to tell the difference between a scoliosis chiropractor and one less experienced with the disorder. These questions are a great starting point! Have an honest conversation with your doctor about the methods they’re using and all possible options. Ask to have an active role in choosing your treatment. Taking control of your spinal health will enable you to make the right treatment decisions for you.

Have you tried chiropractic treatment for scoliosis? Do you think specialization matters? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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17 comments on “Scoliosis Chiropractor: Does Specialization Matter?”

  1. I have been seeing one particular chiro who emphasizes soft tissue in his work. It has been helpful for minimizing pain I would say. But I've also asked him numerous times about taking the work "to another level". Never get an answer so I assume he doesn't know and I'm now trying to figure out what I can do within my budget. That's the rub (haha)!

  2. Thank you, My chiropractor, Dr. DeCamp, Everett, WA just got the special x-ray machine to definitely measure the spine, degree of all factors and determine what adjustments and working with specialized equipment will be beneficial. Total faith in him and going in for full x-ray this next week! Most modern equipment north of Seattle.

  3. Thanks for this great post! I think specialization within the chiropractic field is paramount. And specifically for scoliosis, it is very important. I specialize in soft tissue injuries and sports injuries. Therefore, I refer out to other chiropractic specialists when I come across patients with scoliosis. As a whole, I feel the chiropractic profession needs more of this specialization. So thanks again for this great article!

    1. This is a very good question - I am glad you asked! For decades, conventional wisdom held that scoliosis of less than 20 degrees was a minor inconvenience, and not worthy of treatment. However, in the last few years, new research has come out which challenges this assumption. Doctors said that mild scoliosis did not interfere with lung function - they were wrong. In truth, even mild scoliosis reduces the body's ability to exercise and perform at its full potential. Research also shows that kids with mild scoliosis miss more days of school and report more limitations in their daily activities. Mild scoliosis can also be a potential source of pain - Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the band Nirvana, had a mild scoliosis which caused him a great deal of pain, and may have contributed to his death. It is certainly possible for someone with a mild scoliosis to have no pain or limitations, just like it is still possible for a car to be driven even if the alignment of the tires is slightly off. However, it creates additional wear & tear, and increases the chances that something might go wrong down the road. The good news is that the CLEAR treatment protocols are very effective in cases of mild scoliosis; this is another good reason to treat mild cases, as every big curve started out small. Treating curves early, when they are still minor, is much easier than treating more severe cases.

    1. Thank you for asking! We have received this question several times in the past, and I'm glad you asked. Although lasers certainly have their place in the treatment of many conditions as well as speeding the healing of many types of wounds, we haven't found any evidence that lasers can aid in the treatment of scoliosis per se. Many of our certified doctors have explored the idea of utilizing lasers as a part of the scoliosis treatment protocol, and their consensus so far has been that it does not appear to significantly influence the results in terms of spinal correction or sensorimotor reintegration. There may be ways that someone with scoliosis could nevertheless benefit from cold laser therapy, but we don't recommend that lasers be used to treat the scoliosis directly, or expected to influence the progression or stabilization of the spinal curvatures.

  4. My daughter is a sophmore in highschool and Jv.cheer captian. Not even a month ago my daughter needed a physical for cheer and the school referred us to a chiropractor that does them for a lot cheaper. So he checked her out and told us that her spine was kind of unaligned and that he could do a quick adjustment for 20 dollars. So we did it and she was literally crying when we got in the car. Well yesterday She called me crying saying that she is in so much pain her lower back has a huge bulge on the right.She went to emergency room and got xrays last night and the doctor told us she has scoliosis...she has been crying in pain since. Is the bulge and severe pain do from the adjustment.Im so lost and confused.

    1. Hello, Sheena, thank you for reaching out. I am sorry to hear of what happened. A scoliotic spine functions differently from one without scoliosis, so yes, there are adjustments that need to be avoided. I do not know how they adjusted her, so I cannot say for sure if it would have caused the pain she is having. I would be extremely cautious of taking her to a "$20 adjustment place", especially since they did not take any x-rays of her. Our CLEAR Scoliosis doctors use an approach that is designed specifically for patients with scoliosis. Our goal is to stop the scoliosis from progressing, reduce it as much as possible, and stabilize it. The program is tailored to each individual patient and is entirely based on your x-rays. The x-rays help guide our doctors on how best to perform your adjustments and your therapy with specialized scoliosis equipment. We also formulate an exercise program designed specifically for you based upon your x-rays. I would suggest at the very least a consult with one of our CLEAR Doctors. You can find the closest doctor near you on our website based upon your zip code/country. Please let us know if there is any further assistance we can provide.

    1. Hello, Wes,

      Unfortunately we don't have a CLEAR-certified doctor close to your area. The nearest CLEAR-certified doctor is Dr. Mark Myers, in Wheaton, IL. You can find his contact information here.

  5. I have severe osteoporosis - Osteogenesis Imperfecta along with Dextroscoliosis, compression fractures and now facet arthropathy at most levels. I am in pain constantly & do not know where to turn! Can I get some help in this field? If you have any suggestions, I would be so appreciative. Thank you!

    1. Hello, Sandra,
      Thank you for reaching out. Based on what you are saying, it sounds as if you are dealing with some significant issues. Many of our CLEAR Doctors have had much success with patients who have severe osteoporosis that has led to compression fractures and facet arthropathy. Some of the scoliosis protocols have to be altered to accommodate to your unique situation; however, it is still possible. There is hope. I would suggest contacting the CLEAR Scoliosis Institute certified Doctor nearest you to determine if you would be a candidate for treatment. To find the nearest center, please visit our website under Find a Doctor. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance. Best of luck.

  6. After a fall July 1st when my right buttock hit a 8" stack of lumber , I had some sharp feelings in my lower back. The chiropractor says I have a congenital scoliosis and has regularly adjusted me face down on a table where my pelvis is pushed down sharply a couple inches. Also was twisted and adjusted by hand. Condition then went to left buttock, lower back and right side, too. Pain on trying to lay down can be excruciating. I want to do the stretches and see if i can right this body that way. i am a 75 yr old female and was able to avoid miniscus surgery on my knee doing yoga.

  7. My wife worked for a chiropractor and received numerous adjustments for neck pain, headaches, numbness in wrists and hip pain. The chiropractor took a full history and then proceeded with a plan of care. There were more than 30 adjustments made over several months and the last one being in August 2022. The adjustments occasionally gave some relief but overall the results were inconsistent and the above mentioned ailments have become worse in the last few months.
    This chiropractor works with her husband (who is also a chiropractor).
    The husband recently took some Xrays (as previously stated, my wife's pain had started to increase recently) and quickly discovered that my wife has a very significant case of Scoliosis.

    I don't understand how a chiropractor can make over 30 adjustments and not realize that someone has Scoliosis. The results of the Xray were sent off to a specialist for further treatment options.

    Any wisdom you can provide would be appreciated.

    1. Hello, Tracy,
      I am sorry to hear of the issues she is having. It is very common for a chiropractor to not realize someone has scoliosis or know the extent of a scoliosis. Unfortunately, chiropractic college does not teach a doctor how to detect or manage scoliosis. Post graduate studies specializing in scoliosis are necessary. Our CLEAR Scoliosis Institute certified Doctors go through extensive training on scoliosis, as well as have specialized equipment in their offices to treat scoliosis. A standard scoliosis treatment typically lasts 1.5-2 hours in the office with patients on and off several different pieces of equipment to address their scoliosis curve pattern. I would recommend a consultation with one of our CLEAR Scoliosis Institute Doctors to determine if your wife would be a candidate for this type of treatment and how her scoliosis may respond. To find the nearest certified Doctor, please visit our website under Find a Doctor. Please let us know if you have any questions. Best of luck.

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