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Spinal Curvature: Scoliosis

Scoliosis, or side-to-side curvature of the spine, falls into two broad categories: functional scoliosis, which is an adaptation to an imbalance in structure; and idiopathic scoliosis, which is of unknown origin.

Functional scoliosis arises when the base of the spine is not level, or when segments of the spinal column are misaligned. In order to compensate for the imbalance, the spine will form one or more curves to allow the body to remain upright and the eyes level. Among the reasons for functional scoliosis are fixations of the pelvic joints or spinal joints. Functional scoliosis can also be caused by a difference in leg length - either anatomical, meaning there is a measurable difference in the length of the bones, or functional, meaning the difference arises from lack of proper joint alignment in the pelvis or spine.

Functional scoliosis is treatable by addressing the cause and may be partly or totally corrected with chiropractic care.

The cause of idiopathic scoliosis is unknown. Although some forms appear in infancy, the most common type begins in adolescence, most often in girls. The curve begins to appear with puberty and may be rapidly progressive, sometimes developing into a severe deformity by the end of the growth phase, when it usually stabilizes.

Treatment for idiopathic scoliosis is aimed at minimizing the curve, for health as well as cosmetic reasons. If a scoliosis is very severe it can interfere with normal function of the heart and lungs. The most common approaches are braces or surgery to splint the spine and correct the curvature.

If a young person is undergoing treatment with a brace, it is important to continue regular chiropractic treatments to keep the joints moving as well as possible. This will minimize pain and may enhance the benefits of the therapy. After surgical correction, once healing has taken place, regular chiropractic treatment of segments above and below the area of splinting can decrease pain and allow quicker adaptation of the rest of the spine. If the spinal joints are moving freely, idiopathic scoliosis need not be a painful condition.

In adults, functional scoliosis can frequently be significantly reduced, if not completely corrected, and idiopathic scoliosis can be monitored to correct and prevent improper joint function, providing relief from discomfort and pain.

It is a good policy to have your children’s spines screened regularly by a chiropractor. In the early stages, functional scoliosis can be easily corrected, while idiopathic scoliosis is most successfully controlled if it is detected as early as possible. For more information, contact our office.

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