What’s the Deal with Scoliosis?

Posted on: June 6th, 2019

Who is at risk for scoliosis?

Scoliosis is an abnormal, sideways curve in the spine. A normal spine is straight up and down, but with scoliosis, it bends 10 degrees or more to the side, with the vertebrae turning as well. Scoliosis typically affects young girls. However, as we age we see more people begin to have it. By the time people are age 50, almost 30 percent of the population has scoliosis.

The most rapid time of growth for scoliosis is between the ages of 10 and 18. This is an important time to have your eye on your kids and to watch their spine and posture, to see if it is starting to bend or shift.

A pediatrician will typically check for these changes once a year. But if you have a child involved in swimming, gymnastics, ballet, or dance, it’s important to have this child checked at least four times year because these are sports that can wind up causing it to progress. Check out this easy, at home scoliosis screening you can do.

Between the ages of 18 to 40, there isn’t usually much progression. But at age 40, we see another jump in progression, and some research suggests this is due to hormonal changes that allow the spine to bend further.

We typically see another jump in progression beyond age 60 due to the aging process and spinal deformity.

Check out the video to see a chart on these progressions with age.

What are the signs of scoliosis?

If you or your child are somewhere in these age groups, there are things you can look for that may be a sign of having scoliosis.

Many times the abnormal curve is actually visible, especially in kids during the summertime when they’re in swimsuits or tank tops. Sometimes you can actually see the shifts in the spine.

For older adults, it’s visible as well, when their bodies shift and they lean over to one side.

Many people notice and take action when it becomes cosmetically undesirable. They may notice a bend and don’t like how it looks.

For kids, it may cause a dull ache. The ache may come on gradually or they may not even notice it at all. For some older adults, it can cause acute pain, episodes of pain, numbness and tingling down the legs, and in severe cases, it can cause digestive disturbances or loss of bladder function.

If you or your child is experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Recognizing scoliosis in the early stages is crucial to finding interventions that are safe, easy, and effective that can help for the long-term.

What causes scoliosis?

For young people between the ages of 10-18, they tend to have a major growth spurt during this time. If there’s a shift in the spine when this occurs, particularly in the mid-back, the spine can shift from one side to the other.

There are some principles of bone growth and bone development that wind up kicking in that can really progress scoliosis fast and furious.

The major principle here is known as the Hueter Volkmann Principle.

A normal spine is straight up and down with both sides having an equal amount of force on it coming down from the body above. But in someone who’s begun to develop scoliosis, they have a slight bend that may be just a 10-degree curve. This causes more force on the inside of the bones on the curve. This extra force slows the growth plates down, keeping them from growing as rapidly.

The areas on the outside of the curve have less force on them and wind up growing and developing bone even more. This growth causes a feed-forward mechanism of the outside of the curves growing faster and developing more bone, and the inside of the curve growing less bone.

This begins to cause not only a cosmetic deformity but also a structural deformity. See the video to see this in detail and get a visual.

When this deformity is found early, we can actually use the Hueter Volkmann Principle to restore the spine back to a normal position. However, as it progresses it becomes difficult to use.

Treating a scoliosis

Once it’s determined that you or your child has scoliosis, there are a lot of decisions to make so it’s important to have a whole picture of what’s going on.

Whether it’s a 10-degree or 30-degree scoliosis, there are some routes you should be looking at for the therapies and interventions that will be the most effective for you or your child.

10-degree scoliosis. For scoliosis of 10 degrees, conservative care should be introduced with chiropractic care, exercise, or physical therapy. This has been shown to monitor the bends and prevent them from progressing. It’s important to work on this with someone who is experienced and trained in scoliosis cases.

As scoliosis progresses it typically moves along very rapidly over short periods of time. It’s important to monitor it and get it checked as often as every three months to make sure it isn’t progressing.

20-degree scoliosis. If scoliosis progresses up to 20 degrees you need to consider other therapies because as it increases, you’ll need stronger interventions to help slow it down. At this point, basic exercises are not going to help.

At 20 degrees, we have found that a corrective form of chiropractic care is essential.

Spinal remodeling or chiropractic biophysics is the most effective way in understanding shifts or changes that are happening to the spine and working to reverse them.

30-degree scoliosis. When scoliosis reaches 30 degrees, therapies need to change to support the speed and strength of the curve. At this point, we need to look at a corrective form of chiropractic care as well as a 3-D mirror image brace.

There are many braces out there, however current research is showing that braces that just bend in a direction miss a major component of scoliosis. It’s important to use a brace that winds up addressing all three components.

In our office, we’ve started utilizing a brace called the ScoliBrace that’s been outstanding in tracking and correcting all the directions in just one tool.

Some patients miss this step or they are not monitoring it often enough. Also, many patients come to us whose medical doctors have said they need to have their scoliosis checked every six months. But scoliosis actually needs to be checked more often because the progression can become as much as 10 to 20 degrees in as little as three months. Therefore, having it checked at least every three months is essential for seeing how your spine is progressing.

40-degree scoliosis and above. When scoliosis progresses to 40 degrees, we begin bringing in surgical colleagues to provide consultations. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will have surgery, as surgery is used as a last resource. At this point, surgeons are not looking to doing surgery until beyond 45 degrees and after conservative management, such as bracing and corrective exercise, has been attempted.

In fact, most spinal surgeons want to avoid surgery as much as possible because there are so many adverse effects that can happen from it.

The process of caring for scoliosis varies greatly depending on the severity of the curves and bends.

Exercise programs for people with a scoliosis

There are three exercise programs that are typically recommended for adolescent-onset (ages 10-18 years) scoliosis.

  • Scroth. Scroth was developed in the 1950s and involves a lot of different pulling and elongation exercises of the spine. Great results have been seen on managing and restoring smaller scoliosis back to normal. These exercises are usually administered by physical therapists.
  • SEAS. SEAS was developed by the Society on Scoliosis Orthopedic Rehabilitation Techniques. It’s based on looking at your posture from the outside and shifting you into a more neutral position, and then training your body to remember that position. Different layers are then added to it to wind up complicating the movement so your body remembers those exercise positions. This is a very valid form of exercise for small scoliosis of fewer than 15 degrees.
  • Chiropractic Biophysics. This is a method of analysis that not only look at the external posture of how scoliosis presents, but also looks at the inside to understand the 3-dimensional shift and change that happens. It’s been shown to provide the most depth and understanding of how to restore the posture and misalignments back to the correct position.

Chiropractic Biophysics is typically utilized by a specific group of chiropractors that have been trained specifically for it. This training involves about two weeks of intensive, on-site training to begin to understand the biomechanics of how the spine breaks down and winds up needing this form of an exercise. It’s very detailed and to find someone to utilize it, you can go to idealspine.com.

How can Align Wellness Center help you?

Here at Align Wellness Center, we specialize in the management of scoliosis that has wound up getting anywhere from 10-45 degrees.

Scoliosis requires specialized care and understanding of how scoliosis occurs and progresses. Each treatment is unique to the individual.

Bracing

When scoliosis has progressed beyond 20 degrees, we may utilize a bracing system. Our bracing system, called ScoliBrace, uses a very unique process to assess the individual and develop the brace based on the individual’s needs. This type of brace does not match up with any of the other braces out there.

To decide if the brace is right for you, one of the first things we do is a 3-dimensional scan of your spine (watch the video for a visual on this). This allows us to see posture and all of the contours of the body. It lets us know and understand the outside.

The scan is done standing, lying face down, and lying face up, to allow us to understand and determine the flexibility and rigidity of scoliosis. It lets us know what kind of materials we need to make the brace with and how it needs to be designed.

Once the 3D images have been developed, we combine them with X-rays to understand what’s going on inside.

We then work with casters, orthopedists, orthotists, and biomechanists throughout the world to come to the most effective design for the individual.

Then, we utilize a mirror image over-corrective brace that not only winds up helping to slow down the progress of progression but in some cases actually reverse scoliosis.

If caught early enough, we can actually reverse and eliminate scoliosis, rather than allowing it to progress.

ScoliRoll

Many patients come into our office for treatment of scoliosis, but we also give them care to maintain while at home.

One of the tools we use for this is called a ScoliRoll, and there are two different types; one is for the thoracic spine (mid-back), and the other is for the lumbar spine (lower back).

We use these based on what we see on the individual’s images and how scoliosis has progressed.

The ScoliRoll’s position is unique to each individual and needs to be prescribed to determine which one is right for you and where it needs to be used.

Once it’s prescribed and fit for you and you begin to use it, we can actually use it not only for a sustained hold but we can also do some exercise training on it. (See the video for a visual demonstration on this.)

Spinal Remodeling

In our office, we use techniques that are unique and different, especially for people with scoliosis between 10 and 40 degrees.

We use a state of the art spinal remodeling process and have many different tools we use to decide the best way to address your specific spinal distortion.

In addition to exercises and adjustments, we utilize these tools for tractioning and sustained hold in a corrective position of unwinding the spine so your body can stand up more straight and you can work more efficiently.

We can wind up slowing and even stopping some of progressing scoliosis, particularly when found at an early time.

The key time in understanding what to do for scoliosis is before it winds up progressing. The sooner you take a step in managing it, the better off you will be.

 

Align Wellness Center offers a free phone consultation, so if you or someone you know may have scoliosis, contact us today to see what we can do to help.

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