Everyone's spine has a front-to-back curve, but when the spine curves from left-to-right, this is known as scoliosis. There can either be a single curve, creating a "C" shape, or a double curve, creating an "S" shape. Scoliosis can have a variety of causes and treatment options, and chiropractic care can be a treatment option that is effective for many people.
Different types of scoliosis
1) Idiopathic scoliosis
In 80% of cases, there is no obvious cause for scoliosis. In this case, it is known as idiopathic scoliosis. This form of scoliosis usually develops during the pre-puberty growth spurt (age 10-15).
2) Congenital scoliosis
This is when the spine doesn't form properly in the womb, due to a condition such as spina bifida, and so the curve in the spine is present from birth. The curve of the spine in these cases cannot be corrected without surgery.
3) Scoliosis caused by an underlying condition
Some nerve and muscle conditions, such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, can lead to scoliosis in the spine.
4) Degenerative scoliosis
As we age, the wear and tear on our spine can cause it to curve, leading to degenerative scoliosis. This type usually appears in older adults.
Signs of scoliosis
The signs of scoliosis are almost always visible to the naked eye, and they can include
• a visibly curved spine
• leaning to one side and shoulders that are uneven
• shoulder, hips, or ribs sticking out on one side
• clothes not fitting properly
Scoliosis does not usually affect people's ability to function and thrive, but it can cause back pain in adults. It is this back pain that usually leads adults to seek treatment for their scoliosis.
Treatments for scoliosis
In children with idiopathic scoliosis, the curve in the spine can often be corrected or it can be paused until growth has stopped. Treatments often include braces to hold the spine in place. These have to be worn until growing stops and some children can find this distressing and/or embarrassing.
Chiropractic care can help to reduce the curvature of the spine in children. In one study, adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis who received chiropractic care had an average reduced Cobb angle (a measurement of the curve of the spine) of 6%. They found that in 64% there was a reduced Cobb angle and in the other 36% the curving of the spine stabilized (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7482186/).
In adults, chiropractic care cannot usually reduce the curve of the spine, but it can have other important benefits. Most adults with scoliosis who seek treatment are doing so because of back pain. In many cases, surgery or prescription painkillers are the only medical options to reduce the back pain associated with scoliosis.
Many adult scoliosis patients, however, want to avoid surgery or becoming reliant on painkilling drugs. In these cases, chiropractic care can be a useful treatment option. Chiropractic care can reduce back pain and improve range of motion in adult patients with scoliosis, leading to an improved quality of life (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3259989/).
Chiropractic care can be a useful treatment option for both children and adults with scoliosis. In children with idiopathic, it can reduce or stabilize the curving of the spine. In adults, it can help to reduce back pain and improve mobility.