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  • Writer's pictureDr Claire Chittleborough

Should I See a Chiropractor for Scoliosis?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is more complicated: your chiropractor may not be able to “fix” your scoliosis. Depending on the type of your scoliosis, some respond well to manual treatment, other’s may require a surgical treatment. But orthopaedic surgeons only tend to operate on the most severe cases. Chiropractic treatment can help relieve pain, restore movement, and slow further progression. This makes it a great option for patients who are not eligible for surgery and a great complementary therapy for those who are.

What is Scoliosis?

Let’s start by understanding what scoliosis is. Scoliosis is a medical condition in which the spine curves abnormally to the side. The word “skoliosis” was first used to describe the abnormal curvature of the spine by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. (The guy the Hippocratic oath is named after.) It made its way into English via Latin with a slight spelling change. Now, there are natural curves in a healthy spine that help distribute the body's weight and maintain balance. However, in scoliosis, the spine may curve to the left or right, or sometimes both, forming an "S" or "C" shape. It tends to appear during childhood or adolescence, when the body is growing rapidly, but can present later in life too (possibly because a very mild case has worsened over time.) The cause of most cases of scoliosis is unknown, but underlying conditions such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or genetic disorders may cause others.

Scoliosis can cause pain, discomfort, and breathing difficulties. Why? Let’s think about what a sideways tilt to the spine does to your musculoskeletal and nervous systems. That sideways curve pushes the vertebrae up against each other, robbing the spine of its natural cushioning. It can result in pinched nerves, strained joints and even bone spurs. The condition tends to get worse over time as the discs and vertebrae degenerate, and the muscles that should support the spine, weaken.

And if that’s not all uncomfortable enough, we need to consider the knock-on effects: sustained poor posture places extra strain on the muscles of the back, shoulders, and neck, which can lead to muscle spasms, chronic pain, and headaches. The poor alignment of the spine can distort and compress the rib cage, making it difficult for the lungs to expand fully. It can also displace the organs of the digestive system, leading to bloating, constipation and abdominal pain. Irritation or compression of the nerves travelling along the spine can cause pain, numbness, weakness, or tingling in other parts of the body (wherever the affected nerve root travels) so scoliosis can cause excessive weakness in a patient’s arm or irritation to the bowels! The spine is central to health and healthy movement and scoliosis disrupts it.

Can chiropractic help scoliosis?

Chiropractors may use various techniques to help manage scoliosis, such as flexion-distraction and spinal manipulation. Flexion-distraction is a gentle, non-invasive technique during which the chiropractor applies a gentle pumping motion to the affected area, which helps to alleviate pressure on the spinal discs, nerves, and other soft tissues. Spinal manipulation, on the other hand, is a more forceful technique that involves the application of a quick, controlled force to a specific joint or area of the spine. This technique is often referred to as a chiropractic adjustment and is used to restore proper alignment and movement to the affected joint. By relieving pressure on the nerves in the spine, and opening out the compressed areas in your discs, chiropractic care can relieve pain and restore lost range of motion to the joints. This in turn makes it easier for you to perform exercise programmes designed to strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine, which can help support proper alignment and slow the progression of the condition. In fact, research shows that patients with scoliosis reported improved pain levels, disability and cob angle (the measurement used to determine the severity of spinal curvature) at the conclusion of chiropractic treatment and up to twenty-four months later.

Next steps for scoliosis

If you have scoliosis and it’s impacting your health and happiness, please give us a call on 0413 774 399. Dr Claire is experienced in spinal health. We may not be able to “fix” your scoliosis, but our treatments are designed to relieve pain, improve mobility, and slow the progression of the condition, bringing you better health in the short and long term.

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