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Healthy Living Last Updated: Apr 16th, 2012 - 18:57:46

May 27, 2011, 19:53

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Q.  Dear Dr. Snodgrass,

My daughter was told that she may have scoliosis by the school nurse.  The nurse suggested that we see our doctor about possible treatment.  What is the chiropractic approach to treatment?  Also, what is the long-term outlook for this condition?


A.  The word scoliosis comes from the Greek word meaning crooked.  The dictionary definition is a “lateral curvature of the spine.”  Scoliosis is a broad term, which can mean a number of things.  It can be applied to a spine that has a relatively minor curve, or to one that is grossly misaligned.  As to your daughter’s condition, it is important to first gain a better understanding of scoliosis.  Then we need to make a more specific diagnosis relative to her.


The cause of scoliosis may be from a number of different factors.  With some cases there may be a hereditary component, especially between a mother and a daughter.  We have seen a number of cases where the daughter’s spine will have the same appearance on the x-ray as the mother’s.  Scoliosis is more common in women than in men.  The most important time to watch for a developing scoliosis is between the ages of 1-18, especially in girls.  As they go through the hormone changes, it is the most important time to have them checked regularly for early signs of scoliosis.  It is possible for a fairly normal spine to change very rapidly during this time, especially if there is a family history of scoliosis.  Other possible causes are from a trauma such as a bad fall or car accident, a birth deformity, a short leg, or some type of neuromuscular disease.


The medical approach to scoliosis in a severe case may include use of a brace of some type that goes around the torso.  However, improvement from this type of treatment is usually not long-lasting.  Electrical stimulation has been used on the muscles in a number of cases with varying results.  In the most severe cases, surgery may be used by placing metal rods in the patient’s spine in hope of stabilizing the spine.  I would strongly recommend that you get a number of second opinions, which include that of a chiropractor before this is done.


As a chiropractor, my first goal is to determine the cause of the scoliosis.  This is done through case history, exam, and the appropriate x-rays.  Once this is done, we will have a much better understanding of the specifics of your daughter.  Many cases of scoliosis can be helped and major improvement can be made.  The earlier we start the patient, the better the results will be.  Some cases of scoliosis may never be straightened out.  However, that is not always our goal.  Some people would be worse if we tried to “straighten out their spine.”  It is very important to understand that each case is individual and must be treated as such.


The actual treatment of scoliosis consists of regular chiropractic adjustments, which reposition the vertebrae toward better alignment.  The use of physical therapy, massage, exercise, and treatment is also very important.  Then, depending on the case future, x-rays are taken to check the progress. 

In conclusion, it is important to keep in mind that our goal is not always to “cure” or “straighten out” the scoliosis patient.  In a number of cases that may not be possible.  Rather our goal is to “manage” the case.  By regular adjustment we can keep the spine working at its optimum with a minimum amount of pressure on the nervous system.  This will usually keep the patient symptom-free and able to lead a normal life.  It is my opinion that chiropractic is definitely the treatment of choice for the scoliosis patient.


If you, or any of my other readers would like more information on scoliosis, please contact me at my clinic.  All of you please have  your children checked regularly for the early signs of scoliosis.



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