Scoliosis or curvature of the spine is an idiopathic condition (meaning, of unknown origin) that affects roughly 2% of the population. Generally, this condition is more common in females than in males, and the symptoms present in childhood. Idiopathic scoliosis may progress during adolescence and puberty, but typically does not continue into adulthood. Early detection is key to preventing worsening symptoms of stiffness and pain.
The term “scoliosis” derives from the Greek, and translates as ‘curvature.’ People diagnosed with scoliosis exhibit an “S” or “C”-shaped spinal curve when viewed from either the front or back. This curvature is the result of vertebrae rotating at the thoracic level of the spine, which can also cause a lump near the rib cage. If the curve is greater than 60 degrees, this condition is serious. Signs of scoliosis include asymmetrical shoulders, a bulging shoulder blade, disproportionate waistline, or leaning to one side. Adjusting your posture will not remedy the condition.
Scoliosis can also be the result of a degenerative spine disease. Osteoporosis is a condition affecting bone health, and is exemplified by a softening and weakening of the bones. This disorder is predominantly found in older people, especially menopausal women; other risk factors include low body weight, smoking, and certain prescription medications. Softening and thinning of the bone can cause the vertebrae to bow, thus forming the scoliosis curve or kyphosis—the abnormal rounding of the upper spine. Without proper treatment, severe back pain, deformity, and difficulty breathing can occur.
At Joint Effort, we evaluate the overall health of our patients, which comprises spinal examinations as well as lifestyle, work environment, family history, previous injuries and past surgeries.
When scoliosis is suspect, we generally begin with the Adam’s Forward Bending Test. This requires the patient to bend at the waist as the chiropractor evaluates the spinal alignment. Next, we measure the length of the legs to determine inconsistency and perform a range of motion assessment that determines the level of waist flexibility. If necessary, we refer our patients to a specialist.
In most cases, chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, and electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) are not effective in treating scoliosis, although moist heat can be effective in alleviating the pain. As well, orthopedic braces can prevent further spinal curving without restricting physical activity. In extreme cases in which orthopedic braces are ineffective, surgery may be necessary. Spinal fusion and instrumentation is an option for patients diagnosed with scoliosis. This is a surgical procedure involving the insertion of rods and hooks, that align the spine and prevent the condition from worsening.
Regular visits to monitor the advancement of scoliosis are crucial. Scoliosis is a treatable condition and a number of treatment plans are available and may be implemented to relieve pain and restore functionality. Physical therapy could also be a supplemental component to a specific treatment plan, which serves to increase muscle strength and mobility.
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any additional questions or concerns regarding scoliosis.