Scoliosis:  Important New Causes and Treatments You Probably Don't Know

I was diagnosed with scoliosis in Jr High and wore a brace until High School. When that didn’t work, I had a Harrington Rod put in. I’d seen an acupuncturist, may have helped a little, but not really. I saw another chiropractor, but didn’t have any results.  I had forgotten what it’s like to not live with pain. I started treatment with a 7/10 pain level and now I’m at a 0-1. I’m so happy. I really, really didn’t think I’d ever have a life free of back pain. It’s been really amazing. I’ve been so surprised...-B. Bliss, Actress

While most of us think we’re a bit twisted, some of us really are. Luckily, the exact extent of our “twistiness” can actually be measured—in degrees. When it’s over 10 degrees, we call it a Scoliosis

scol 16-10 degreesA 10 degree lumbar and 16 degree thoracic scoliocic.



scoliosis 62A 62 degree thoracic scoliosis


Unfortunately, there are a few common myths about Scoliosis that need to be cleared up (many still believed by doctors to this day):

  1. Myth: Scoliosis effects only 2-3% of the population.
    Fact: One third of all adults and two-thirds of those over the age of 70 have spinal curvatures over 10 degrees (the official starting point for a scoliosis).
  2. Myth: Once we become an adult, our spinal curvatures stops increasing.
    Fact: Unless we stop gravity, our spinal curvatures usually increase with age.
  3. Myth: Scoliosis is harmless unless severe enough to compress your organs.
    Fact: Scoliosis often increases the rate of spinal arthritis, stenosis, disc herniations, slippage (lateral listhesis), nerve compression and pain.

Doctors need to develop a plan to slow or even reverse scoliosis, not just measure it’s progression.

scol deg 3Degenerative changes seen in scoliosis


Obviously, structures that are imbalanced wear faster than one more structurally aligned. Think of the tires on your car—when out of alignment or imbalanced, don't they wear considerably faster?

What Causes A Scoliosis?

A Scoliosis is usually caused by the uneven development of ones spine, muscles or legs.

Many of these asymmetries start at birth. One of the most common culprits (and usually unrecognized by doctors) is your tailbone (sacrum). The sacrum is composed of five separate bones that fuse together before we’re born. But, occasionally they fuse together slightly twisted, causing the rest of the spine to be crooked as well--voila, a scoliosis.

Another frequent cause of scoliosis (again commonly overlooked), is leg length inequality (i.e. one leg having a different length than the other). While some of these leg length discrepancies are “functional” (i.e. caused by pelvic misalignment) and can be corrected by chiropractic treatment and postural changes, others come from prior leg fractures, hip or knee surgeries, bad foot mechanics or just having grown that way. These cases need to be treated, with a shoe lift or foot orthotic and physical or chiropractic therapy. 

These two types of scoliosis are especially distressing for me to see, since most could have been prevented or, at least significantly improved, with something as minor as a shoe insert!

scol leg lengths Leg Length Inequality: a common cause of scoliosis.


Can Bad Posture Cause A Scoliosis?

Not usually. While bad posture leads to spinal misalignment, it’s not usually enough to cause a scoliosis; although, it can cause a lot of pain. Here’s our Postural Hall of Shame (yes, there are many others.--feel free to add your personal favorites):

  • Sitting with one of your feet under your buttocks.
  • Sitting with one leg always crossed over the other.
  • Working at your computer with your pelvis and shoulders facing opposite directions.
  • Sleeping on your stomach with one leg up.
  • Carrying a heavy bag on your shoulder (especially on the same side)

Are There Other Types of Scoliosis That Are Less Common?

Yes. Scoliosis usually becomes apparent as an early teenager, but some cases are seen in infancy. They are rare, often severe, easily diagnosed and seen in conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy and Spina Bifida.

scol advanced


What’s Your Clinic’s Recommendation To Treat Scoliosis?

We know that Scoliosis is a spinal curvature that often increases as we age and leads to an increased wear and tear on the spine. Many of these cases can be helped or corrected if the underlying structural cause is found and treated properly. After the appropriate treatment, the curvature should be x-rayed, at periodic intervals, making sure the correction occurs and holds. These are our recommended treatment steps:

  • Correct the asymmetry with a lift or/and orthotic placed inside your shoe whenever possible.
  • Use precise physical therapy and chiropractic approaches to align and balance the spine and paravertebral structures (including antigravity techniques such as traction, inversion and spinal decompression).
  • Correct bad postural habits that have formed as a cause or effect of the scoliosis.
  • Surgery should rarely be considered and only in curvatures over 45 degrees.

The Morris Spinal Stenosis and Disc Center specializes in finding, teaching and researching answers for Scoliosis.

Scoliosis is often associated with other spinal problems as well. To learn more about important treatment options for these conditions or about our spine center, see the links below:

Click on Research to see the spinal research performed in our center.

Click on the Morris Spinal Stenosis and Disc Center to learn more about our center.

Click on Morris Spinal Stenosis and Disc Center Staff to learn more about the professionals we work with.

To Find Answers For Your Low Back Pain - Click Here

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To Find Answers For Your Disc Herniations and Degeneration - Click Here

To Learn Whether You Need Back Surgery or Not - Click Here

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