Important New Causes That Have Been Discovered and Treatments You Need To Know.
Can You Spot The Three Often Repeated Scoliosis Myths (possibly even by your doctor)?
Can You Improve Your Scoliosis (Not Just Watch It?)
Ms. Bliss Wants You To Know Something About Scoliosis
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
Officially, What’s Scoliosis and How Do You Know If You Have It?
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 scoliosis.
Picture above are photos taken from X-Rays showing mild to severe scoliosis. The photo on the top shows a patient with a 10 degree lumbar curvature and 16 degree thoracic spinal curvature. This would be considered a mild case of scoliosis. The photo on the bottom shows a patient with a 62 degree thoracic curvature and would be diagnosed as a severe case of scoliosis.
Unfortunately, there are a few common myths about Scoliosis that need to be cleared up!
- 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).
- Myth: Once we become an adult, our spinal curvatures stops increasing.
- Fact: Unless we stop gravity, our spinal curvatures usually increase with age.
- 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.
This photo shows the degenerative 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 Scoliosis?
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, 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.
Can Bad Posture Cause Scoliosis?
Not usually. While bad posture leads to spinal misalignment, it’s not usually enough to cause 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.
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.
What’s Your Clinic’s Recommendation For Treating 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 Spinal Stenosis & Disc Center, Inc specializes in finding, teaching and researching answers for scoliosis. If you have been diagnosed with scoliosis or show signs of having scoliosis then please give our office a call today and speak to one of our doctors at 310-451-5851.
Original Article written by Rick H. Morris, D.C.