Scoliosis:
Causes, Exercises & Treatment

Scoliosis is the most recognized spinal deformity. It’s the descriptive term used for the characteristic curved (S-shaped) appearance of the spine. A normal spine is straight except for the normal lordotic and kyphotic curvatures when viewed laterally. If the curvature of the spine is directed towards the left, it’s referred to as a levoscoliosis. If the curvature is directed towards the right, it’s referred to as a dextroscoliosis. Scoliosis is most commonly seen in the thoracic (middle back) and lumbar (lower back) spines and primarily affects adolescents. There are different classifications which are explored below:

  • Congenital: Caused by abnormalities that are present from birth.
  • Idiopathic: Scoliosis due to an unknown cause. Also includessub-categories infantile, juvenile, adolescent and adult.
  • Secondary: Caused by deformities such as Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy or physical trauma.

Risk Factors For Developing Scoliosis

There are various warning signs and risk factors to look out for in your children. These warning signs will enable you to detect the early progression of Scoliosis. This will ensure you’re able to get prompt Scoliosis treatment before it worsens.

  • Clothes not sitting correctly
  • Abnormal posture – unlevelled shoulders and pelvis
  • Abnormal head position
  • Asymmetrical muscle development
  • Unilateral prominent ribs and chest cavity
  • Unequal gaps between arms and torso
  • Family history of Scoliosis
  • Unequal leg length

Observe Your Child For Signs Of Scoliosis

Scoliosis screening should be regularly performed by not only parents but musculoskeletal professionals to ensure proper development throughout the growth and development years.

  • The Forward Bend test involves having your child bend forward at the hips while keeping their legs straight. The child is instructed to reach towards the floor while you view the child from behind. If a unilateral prominence is evident it’s clinically indicative of Scoliosis. This prominence represents the thoracic rib cage.
  • Spinal observation and palpation is also of clinical importance. With the child seated and shirt removed observe their posture for the presence of an abnormal curvature. Slowly running your fingers up their spine. You may feel the curvature. Repeat this test in the standing position. If a curvature is observed or detected on palpation it’s indicative of Scoliosis.

Scoliosis Treatment

Scoliosis is managed either conservatively or with the use of surgical intervention in severe cases. Further details can be found below.

Chiropractic

If Scoliosis is evident your Chiropractor will recommended X-ray analysis to determine it’s severity. The below table highlights the risk of Scoliosis progression with the age at which it’s initially determined to be present.

Scoliosis Curvature Age (10 – 12) Age (13 – 15) Age (16+)
<20° 25% 10% 0%
21 – 30° 60% 40% 10%
31 – 60° 90% 70% 30%
>60° 100% 90% 70%

From this table we can see that Scoliotic curvatures worsen during periods of rapid growth. This means that it’s important to have your child be checked as early as possible.

Chiropractic treatment of Scoliosis depends upon the age at which it’s detected as well as how severe the curvature is.

  • Manual spinal manipulation is the most recognized technique used by Chiropractors. Spinal manipulation involves repositioning a joint which may assist with improving overall spinal curvature and flexibility.
  • Flexion-distraction therapy describes a particular therapy that is unique to the Chiropractic profession. A flexion-distraction table allows the Chiropractor to ‘untwist’ the curvature of the spine while also opening restricted spinal joints to improve spinal flexibility, movement and reduce pain levels.
  • Massage for muscular tightness and tension is common for Scoliosis sufferers due to the abnormal spinal positioning. Specific massage and muscle releasing techniques are ideal for improving muscle tension and therefore relieving pain.
  • Flexibility & strengthening exercise prescription is necessary. Specific exercises depend on the nature of the curvature and must only be recommended by a trained professional.
Surgical Intervention

Bracing is usually considered in cases where progression is expected. In some cases bracing may prevent the need for surgery and the process involves specifically designing a brace to fit the torso of the individual, almost like a corset. The brace places pressure to specific areas of the spine in order to attempt at straightening the curvature
Casting involves a plaster mould being wrapped around the torso which is thought to assist with ‘moulding’ or permanently changing the position of the spine as the child grows and develops
Spinal rods have been shown to straighten scoliosis curvatures however there are side effects which must be seriously considered prior to the procedure. Most commonly spinal rods are placed along the spine, however demonstrated negatives of this are usually chronic back pain as an adult, restricted movement and sciatica.

Chiropractor Scoliosis Research

  • Spinal manipulative and rehabilitation techniques resulted in clinically significant improvements in Scoliosis severity. Villafane, J et al (2012). Manipulative and rehabilitative therapy as a treatment of idiopathic scoliosis without psychological sequelae: A case report. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 11(2); 109 – 114
  • Following a schedule of multi-modal Chiropractic management improvements were demonstrated both subjectively and objectively in radiographic changes, pain levels and overall disability. Morningstar, M. (2011). Outcomes for adult scoliosis patients receiving Chiropractic rehabilitation: A 24-month retrospective analysis. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 10(3); 179 – 184
  • Chiropractic care resulted in a reduction in overall spinal curvature in an adolescent with idiopathic scoliosis suggesting it is an effective scoliosis treatment option. Kao-Chang, C. (2008). Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis treated by spinal manipulation: A case study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14(6); 749 – 751
scoliosis treatment