One of the most common questions asked by patients and skeptics is “Can scoliosis be fixed by a chiropractor?” Most of the times, we have heard this question from people who have in the past had some poor experience with chiropractors. Probably what they were promised wasn’t what they got in addition to a couple of other reasons.
We strongly believe that a chiropractor can assist you in improving your life’s quality. But the answer to the above question requires a more in-depth analysis.
The Nature of Scoliosis
Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine and relating to rotation of the vertebrae. Because of the deformity of the spine can cause
- Reduced lumbar, thoracic, and cervical curves
- The rib cage can rotate and deform
- Pelvis and/or shoulder may vary in height
- The head may tilt or lean.
The causes of scoliosis are numerous. However, if left untreated, can progress forcefully to the point of causing suffering and decrease in quality of life. Short of profound surgery and/or inconvenient braces, there does not seem to be adequate medical therapy to fix scoliosis or slow down its progress. Yoga is an empowering, effective self-care therapy that can relieve pain caused by scoliosis. It can reduce and balance the forces adding to the progression of the condition.
Types of Scoliosis
Functional scoliosis is an imbalance in the connective tissue supporting the spine. Posterior muscles and pelvic ligaments may develop uneven strength or flexibility and present the symptomatic shape of a scoliotic spine. It can be distinguished from structural scoliosis. This is done by putting yourself in a forward or lateral extension (sideways bend) and keeping an eye that the spinal curvature will correct itself. It can be treated with greater effect through yoga due to the fact that it is limited to connective tissue. However, if left untreated, it may result in structural scoliosis.
Structural scoliosis is the uneven growth of the vertebrae and ribs. In other words, the uneven growth of the calcified structures of the torso. In this condition we see some common deviations:
- The left and right parts of the vertebrae are of different depths
- The spinal process is not centered
- The spinal canal is not symmetrical
- One side of the rib cage may be larger than the other (may present with opposing posterior and anterior rotation of the ribs)
Important to note that treatment of structural scoliosis will undo the calcified structural deformity. Even so, it can improve the secondary effects of the structure by reducing or stopping the progression of the scoliosis.
Setting Expectations Around “Fixing” Scoliosis
It’s vital to understand from the onset that scoliosis can be treated though not technically curable. Scoliosis is most often compared to diabetes which happens to be a condition that requires continuous care. Hence, it’s imperative that you reframe your thinking from short-term treatment to the long-term as this will be an ongoing treatment that would last a lifetime.
That said if you are fortunate to come upon the right techniques for managing your scoliosis, you will undoubtedly live a healthy and enjoyable life with little or no limitations. In addition to that, if you are able to remain committed to your physician’s prescriptions your life will improve tremendously without the need for braces or surgery.
Techniques that promise a fast fix for scoliosis hardly produce meaningful results. It’s pretty easy to promise a quick fix, but more difficult to deliver it. A good number of these approaches have little or no impact on quality of life, and most often they worsen a patient’s state of health.
Once you’ve been able to reshape your thinking on what the word “fixed” actually means with respect to the treatment of scoliosis, you should find the best chiropractor.
Not All Chiropractors Are Scoliosis Experts
Scoliosis is an extraordinary condition that needs a methodical approach. Regrettably, a good number of chiropractors try to treat scoliosis similar to the way they treat every other spinal condition. This won’t work with scoliosis.
Most often we tend to say “you cannot be an exceptional clinician than you are a diagnostician.” This literally means you cannot treat something you can’t diagnose. Most chiropractors are not trained to diagnose inconsistencies related to scoliosis. This makes it pretty easy to miss the underlying major causes of scoliosis as well as other related issues. Productive diagnosis is the best technique used in developing the right treatment plan before proceeding to treatment.
Generally, chiropractors search for sticky joints in the spine and try to loosen them. But with scoliosis, joint flexibility isn’t the primary issue. It is the position of the joints that is. Using the traditional chiropractic approach in treating scoliosis, can cause more pressure on the vertebral joints, irritate the surrounding nerves and lead the scoliosis in the wrong direction.
The joints of the spine need to be structured first. But for any long-term gain to take place, a whole lot more needs to be done to accompany this foundation. Your muscles need to be relaxed, with your brain rewired to your muscles and vertebral joints. For scoliosis to be treated effectively, these things should happen at the same time. This can be achieved through scoliosis massages, stretches, and exercises coupled with scoliosis-specific spinal manipulations.
When We Evaluate New Patients
Most often we get asked what it is scoliosis experts anticipate when evaluating a new patient with scoliosis. But the real question should be, how do doctors know the amount of help needed? It is a great question; the right answer is pretty dependent on each patient’s case uniquely. Below are a couple of general indicators we always look out for.
1. SPINAL STIFFNESS
We are always on the lookout for how stiff the spine we are currently working on is. This most often gives us a heads up on the amount of work that needs to be carried out before we can efficiently start maneuvering the spine.
However, we focus on more than just discs, bones, muscles and the nerves in your spine. We particularly take a look at the amount of tension placed on these nerves. A few theories of scoliosis speak of the fact that it happens to take stress off the pinched nerves. While there is no one definitive answer on nerve tension theory as a principal cause of spine curvature, we trust it is a key player in the shape of the spine as well as in the quality of life. By taking pressure off the nerve, we can assist you to feel better sooner as we proceed with treating the shape of your spine.
2. SENSORIMOTOR INTEGRATION
SMI is an acronym for the word Sensorimotor Integration; a name used to evaluate how well your brain is able to interact with your body. When the brain and the other functional parts of the body fail to communicate effectively, it leads to various kinds of illnesses including scoliosis. Treating scoliosis means rewiring the brain to be able to communicate properly with the body, especially the spine.
This evaluation usually involves a range of balance-related tests to have a look at how well things are coordinated from the beginning. We duplicate these tests throughout a typical treatment to keep a record of progress. This happens to be one of the key treatments that a good number of traditional chiropractors tend to overlook when it comes to treating a patient with scoliosis.
3. PATIENT DEDICATION
This is one big factor we want when determining the amount of progress we will be able to make with a new patient that has scoliosis. Commitment is a chief factor in determining the amount of progress you will see within a given time frame.
We like to compare this to when patients pay a visit to the dentist. When it comes to oral hygiene, most of the “difficult work” is usually done in your home and not at the dentist’s office. The same applies to the treatment of your scoliosis. You are more likely to achieve the best benefits if you remain committed.
Read about the 5 best exercises for scoliosis.
Also published on Medium.