What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a spinal disorder traditionally defined as a sideways curvature (or curvatures) of the spine. Often, the curves appear S-shaped or C-shaped. The most common form of scoliosis is idiopathic, which accounts for about 80 percent of scoliosis cases. Unfortunately—and frustratingly—idiopathic means "without known cause," meaning experts don't have all the answers for sufferers. Other forms of scoliosis are:
- Congenital Curve (meaning you were born with the issue)
- Paralytic Curve (meaning the muscles don't work)
- Myopathic Deformity (meaning the muscles don't work properly)
- Secondary (caused by a secondary condition, such as degeneration, osteoporosis or osteomalacia)
Who is affected?
Scoliosis affects between 6 and 9 million people—around two to three percent of the population—in the United States. Of those suffering from the disorder, children aged 10 to 15 are the largest age group, and girls are more often affected than boys. While it's common in this age and gender group, there is a growing population of adults who have scoliosis.
What causes scoliosis?
As mentioned above, most cases of scoliosis are without a known cause. Some cases, such as congenital scoliosis, do have a known cause. In congenital scoliosis, the curves are thought to be due to abnormally formed vertebrae, present at birth.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Typically, those who have scoliosis won't experience back pain, so it's important to look for physical signs such as:
- Uneven shoulders or a shoulder blade that protrudes farther than the other when standing
- A rib hump (rib prominence) or a lower back hump (lumbar prominence) when bending forward
- One hip may appear higher than the other
The Cobb Method
The main part of the diagnosis is the measurement of the curve, which is measured using the Cobb method. A positive diagnosis is determined by a curve greater than 10 degrees. A curve greater than 25 to 30 degrees is considered significant. And a curve exceeding 45 to 50 degrees is considered severe.
How is scoliosis diagnosed?
Scoliosis can be diagnosed using medical and family history, a physical examination and X-rays of the spine. Be sure be checked by a professional, the signs of scoliosis are subtle and can be easily missed.
What are the treatment options?
There are several options for treating scoliosis, such as chiropractic, observation and bracing. Studies have shown active chiropractic treatment has improved the Cobb angle and pain scores. At our clinics, we offer an adult brace that helps to relieve pain, improve posture, reduce pressure and more.
Experts agree that scoliosis is best treated when found early—so if you suspect scoliosis or are unsure, it's best to get checked right away.
Make an appointment to talk to a chiropractic doctor about chiropractic and scoliosis.
Read on to learn more:
Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Treated by Spinal Manipulation: A Case Study (Abstract), Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2008
Scoliosis Can Hit Well Past Adolescence, New York Times, Oct. 2013
Manual therapy as a conservative treatment for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: a systematic review, Italian Scientific Spine Institute, 2008
Chiropractic manipulation in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis: a pilot study, Chiropractic & Osteopathy, 2006
Scoliosis: biomechanics and rationale for manipulative treatment, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 1989
Treatment Options for Scoliosis, Scoliosis Research Society, accessed 2015