Scoliosis is an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine. A mild scoliosis is a curve that measures less than 20 degrees. A moderate curve measures between 25 degrees and 40 degrees. A severe curve measure more than 50 degrees. Scoliosis often affects the thoracic spine (midback) and the lumbar spine (low back). When these curves are severe enough a sideways curve may be seen in the cervical spine (neck) as well.
Scoliosis often begins in childhood and is more noticeable after growth spurts. Scoliosis can occur in boys or girls, but girls are more often affected. In addition, scoliosis is more likely to be more severe in girls. Most cases of scoliosis are referred to as idiopathic scoliosis, meaning there is not a known reason for the abnormal curvatures. There is some evidence to suggest hormones play a part in the development of scoliosis but posture, family history, and muscle health can also play a role. During growth spurts the scoliosis may worsen by 1 degree per month, but this rate can increase just before the start of puberty.
Scoliosis can be easily identified by a physical exam. The chiropractor can find the abnormal curves by tracing the outline of the spine. This can be done through clothing. Other physical signs the chiropractor will notice are: uneven shoulder height, one shoulder blade that is more prominent than the other, a widened rib cage on one side, a rib hump on 1 side, uneven hip height and flaring of the pelvis on one side, and twisting of the torso/waist. X-rays may also be taken to initially evaluate the scoliosis then re-taken over the course of treatment to monitor for improvement during the course of chiropractic care.
Most of the time scoliosis is mild and can be corrected with chiropractic adjustments, strengthening exercises, and stretches for the back. Adjustments ensure proper joint alignment and nervous system function while exercises to strengthen and balance the muscles along the spine are very important to ensure the bones are held in place properly. If the muscles are not properly strengthened and stretched the scoliotic curvatures will return and progress. Sometimes the curvature is severe causing problems with the lungs and heart. These types of scoliosis cases may require concurrent medical care with an orthopedist and/or surgeon.
Children and adolescents with lateral curvatures need to be monitored closely until they are fully grown, and during times of growth spurts, treatment may be more frequent to ensure the spine develops normally.
Most children do not receive chiropractic care during the years that the scoliosis appears and progresses. Without proper treatment, the scoliosis will be permanent. This increases the risk of back pain in men and women. In addition, female are at a higher risk of having their sciolisos worsen during pregnancy when the hormone Relaxin causes the body’s ligaments to loosen in preparation for the birthing process. Relaxin will affect all ligaments of the body, including spinal ligaments, which allows for excess movement of the joints which may lead to a worsening of the scoliosis. Chiropractic adjustments and muscle strengthening can help reduce the risk of the scoliosis curve worsening.
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