What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a disorder of the spinal column that causes a deformity in the shape of the spine. The human spinal column is designed to have normal curves. These are best viewed from the side. The neck - or cervical - shape of the spine is meant to be curving towards the face. This is known as lordosis of the spine.
The middle of the spine between the shoulder blades, known as the thoracic spine, is opposite to the cervical and will have a shape curving out towards the back of the individual. This is known as kyphosis of the spine. Lastly in the lower back area, or lumbar spine, the shape will be similar to the cervical spine in that it curves towards the belly button of the individual – again referred to as lordosis.
All of this simply means that when looking at a person from the side where that person is facing to the left, the shape of the spine should be a nice gentle “S” shape.
The shape of scoliosis in a spinal column however is normally best visualized from the back of an individual. This is because instead of the curve bending from front to back, the curves of scoliosis bend laterally to the sides. These curves will usually be diagnosed as having a “C” shape or an “S” shape.
While scoliosis is a common finding within a given population, the degree of the curve can vary greatly from one individual to another.
Signs and Symptoms of Scoliosis
Signs and symptoms of scoliosis cannot always be seen with the naked eye. The best way to fully visualize and diagnose scoliosis is with plain film X-ray. With these images, the entire spinal column can be seen, and also measured, which is very important when monitoring someone with scoliosis.
Monitoring the degree of curve is especially important with individuals of a younger age that have lateral curves in the spine. Due to the fact that adolescents are still growing and their skeletal systems are still maturing, their spines can be more susceptible to the curves getting worse over time. While this is not usually the case, being able to track any changes over subsequent images can help stay ahead of any scoliosis that may become severe in the future.
There are some simple tests that can be performed before an X-ray is ordered to give the practitioner an idea if there is an abnormal curve present. An easy place to begin is to simply observe the individual. This is best done both in a regular standing position and during their normal walking pattern. All the practitioners would be looking for is unevenness in the shoulders and/or hip area.
Further to that, while observing from behind, the practitioner would have the individual slowly let themselves fall forward as far as they could comfortably go. What would be visualized here in a spine with a significant enough scoliosis would be a “hump” on one side of the spine where the ribs are most prominent. A “hump” on one side of the ribs usually indicates that the spinal column is curving towards that side.
Pain in the back and/or neck area can be a symptom of scoliosis, but is not always present.Book An Appointment
Causes of Scoliosis
Scoliosis can usually be broken down into the structural type and non-structural type. Structural scoliosis tends to be caused by something in the spinal column itself that is affecting the normal vertical position of the vertebrae. This can refer to a single vertebral bone that did not completely form from birth and has developed into an irregular shape that is causing the spine to bend to one side.
This could also refer to a growth in the body that is newer that is causing the structural integrity of the spine to shift. Either way, this can only be properly diagnosed with imaging of the spine.
Non-structural scoliosis tends to refer to how the body is compensating in response to any insult being put on it. This can refer to positions an individual will take when there is a pain in the spine. If you have a sore foot or leg, a person may typically limp so as to take the stress off the injured limb.
Similarly, if someone has a sore back, they may lean to one side more than the other to take the stress off the injured area. There are also neuromuscular issues that can cause imbalances in the muscles of the spine, which result in the spine being pulled to one side more than the other. These conditions will often be diagnosed before the scoliosis is present, such as muscular dystrophy.
The most common type of scoliosis is referred to as idiopathic. This simply means that there is no obvious reason for the spine to be shaped with sideways curves. A hereditary component is believed to play a part in scoliosis, but ultimately it is still not completely understood.
How Our Chiropractor Can Help
While there is no cure for scoliosis, an individual can be treated conservatively with significant relief of the symptoms that arise. Spinal adjustments, soft tissue therapy, and prescribed exercises can help ease the pain and discomfort that is felt anywhere in the body due to scoliosis.
The rare case that does become more severe would require a referral to an orthopedic surgeon for possible bracing and/or surgery.
Prevention is unfortunately not usually an option for scoliosis, but regular visits to your chiropractor can help catch scoliosis early, have it properly monitored with routine X-rays if necessary, and treat any resulting discomfort or pain to keep you mobile and active.
Why Pillars of Wellness?
At Pillars of Wellness, in Burlington, Ontario, we are proud to provide a truly integrated care approach that employs a variety of treatments to achieve a faster recovery. Our clinic offers different services such as physiotherapy, chiropractic, naturopathy, counselling, occupational therapy, yoga therapy, acupuncture, and holistic nutrition.
With multiple diverse services and specialties in one place, you’ll get the best care possible — without having to look elsewhere. Pillars of Wellness is your one-stop-health solution, located right here in Burlington.
Last but not least, chiropractic is typically covered under most extended health insurance plans. If you do not have coverage or have exceeded your coverage limits, you can consult with our Physiotherapists. Both Chiropractor's and Physiotherapists have skills and techniques to treat and manage back injuries and associated symptoms.