Before approaching the question of how to fix scoliosis without surgery, I have to be clear that there’s no known way to ‘fix’ scoliosis; it’s an incurable condition with no known single cause. That being said, my functional scoliosis-specific chiropractic approach offers impressive results and includes a number of non-surgical strategies for managing the condition.
The traditional treatment approach that most often ends in spinal-fusion surgery involves a lot of watching and waiting. Most often, a scoliosis diagnosis will be followed with the advice of, “There is a curvature, but let’s monitor it to see how it progresses.” While that doesn’t sound like bad advice, there are some dangers to be aware of.
While some curvatures don’t progress or progress very slowly, in the majority of cases, progression is an issue, and no abnormal spinal curvature is simply going to correct itself. Often the waiting time that passes between X-rays can end up being harmful, especially in cases of adolescent scoliosis where growth spurts are still occurring. Rapid growth equals rapid curvature progression, and that is why I don’t subscribe to the traditional watching-and-waiting approach.
If an adolescent is first diagnosed with a 10-to-15 degree curve, their scoliosis lands on the ‘mild’ range. However, if they then wait three-to-six months for the next X-ray and, in that time, experience a huge growth spurt that progresses their curvature significantly, they are only closer to that 25-degree surgical curve.
While spinal-fusion surgery does have its place in extreme cases, if you are asking how to fix the condition without surgery, you’re likely aware there are some costs and risks involved.
Spinal-fusion surgery involves fixing a scoliosis curve by realigning and fusing the curved vertebrae together with the end goal of them healing into a single bone. Rods, plates, wires or screws can be used to hold the bones together while the fusion heals.
Every case is different, and the degree of flexibility a patient is left with after spinal-fusion surgery depends on a number of factors including the degree of flexibility their scoliosis had given them prior to surgery, age, and fitness level.
One of the main issues I have with spinal-fusion surgery is what kind of life the patient is left with post-surgery. While the surgery is often successful in terms of giving the patient a straighter spine, the spine is held in alignment, which can have a high cost in terms of flexibility and functionality.
Depending on the severity of your scoliosis and surgery, recovery time varies. For some, it can take several months for the fusion to heal. With spinal fusion, a section of the spine is immobilized, and that can cause additional pressure and stress on the fused portion, worsening the condition over time and necessitating additional surgeries in the future.
In terms of ‘fixing’ scoliosis, I wish I could say I have a clear-cut answer, but scoliosis is incurable. People with scoliosis will be living with the condition throughout their lives, but that doesn’t have to be seen as some kind of sentence. The more relevant issue then becomes how to manage the condition, prevent its progression, and support patients and loved ones so they can live their best lives enjoying the physical activities they love the most.
Depending on the treatment approach you choose for yourself or your loved one, there are different ways to approach living with the condition and managing its progression. I encourage patients and their caregivers to take a proactive approach to manage their condition, and in my experience, starting treatment right away, rather than passively monitoring the curve’s progression, is the best course of action.
Here at the Scoliosis Reduction Center, my team and I offer our patients access to multiple forms of treatment that are designed to treat the whole patient. We feel that there is more to managing scoliosis than simply straightening the spine. While we are working towards the ultimate goal of a curvature reduction, we also value quality of life and functionality throughout treatment and beyond.
If our treatment resulted in a straighter spine but came at the cost of flexibility and functionality to the point where an athlete couldn’t participate in the sport that gives their life meaning, we wouldn’t consider our approach a success. We consider a treatment plan successful when it provides a patient with relief, prevents progression, and results in a curvature reduction while still allowing the patient to participate in the activities they love.
At the Scoliosis Reduction Center, we work closely with our patients and their caregivers to come up with a treatment plan that works best for each individual patient. If sports are a huge part of one patient’s life, we want our approach to allow that patient to maintain their physical fitness level and continue actively participating in their sport throughout treatment.
Our strategy is to strengthen the spine in a corrective position through a combination of scoliosis-specific chiropractic care, exercises and rehabilitation, and specialized custom 3-D bracing; whereas spinal fusion holds the spine in a corrective position, but does so at the cost of function, flexibility, and range of motion.
There are many non-surgical ways to manage living with scoliosis, and I encourage my patients to take advantage of most of them. As I said before, there’s no known way to simply ‘fix’ scoliosis, but there are conditions that can be created within the body that better enable its ability to heal and minimize the negative aspects of the condition.
While lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise are important for anyone wanting to live their best lives, individuals with scoliosis have even more reason to put some thought into their choices to better manage their condition.
Many of my scoliosis patients, both young and old, come to me with the expectation of being told they can’t or shouldn’t exercise and that they’re likely to have to give up a lot of the physical activities they love.
In extreme cases, you could be limited and unable to partake in certain sports that promote thoracic extension or favor the overuse of one side of the body, but in most cases, I encourage exercise and continuing with the physical activities that give my patient’s lives meaning. Exercise is known as nature’s antidepressant for a reason, and those benefits are essential to patients living their best lives with any condition.
Exercises like swimming, walking and running are more than safe for people with scoliosis, and scoliosis-specific exercises such as stretching, rowing, planking, and the CLEAR Institute’s (Chiropractic Leadership, Educational, Advancement, and Research) list of back exercises have a lot of benefits. When used effectively, these exercises can increase strength, functionality, and provide relief.
Patients who approach me with an already-established healthy lifestyle do far better throughout their course of treatment. That is because they are healthier from the onset and are in better shape to tolerate the mental and physical demands of scoliosis-specific chiropractic exercise and rehabilitation while living with their condition.
A good attitude can go a long way, so my treatment plans include a scoliosis-specific exercise regimen that helps my patients maintain a positive physical fitness level and healthy attitude that promotes function and flexibility.
At first thought, it wouldn’t seem like diet would be an important part of treating scoliosis or living with the condition. At the Scoliosis Reduction Center, we work on treating the whole patient and diet is a part of that.
While no diet plan alone can reduce a curvature, scoliosis diets enable the body to better deal with its challenges and relieve symptoms.
Once I address the structural issues of a patient’s curvature, diet and nutrition also become important elements of my treatment plan.
Let’s explore the importance of a healthy diet and food that are Scoliosis Friendly foods and some foods to avoid.
Now that we’ve discussed the general ways that food can impact scoliosis, let’s take a look at some specific food suggestions that people with scoliosis should embrace and avoid.
The majority of the aforementioned foods are not conducive to a scoliosis-friendly diet because they contain high levels of preservatives, salt, sugar, and rob the bones of calcium. These kinds of foods also can lead to inflammation and obesity. They are also not amino acid-rich foods that help stimulate the body’s production of neurotransmitters that help systems within the body to communicate.
For a more comprehensive understanding of the role that diet and nutrition play in scoliosis, my book Scoliosis Hope has a large section devoted to exploring the place of diet, exercise, and lifestyle in managing the condition.
When it comes to designing a treatment plan that gives each and every patient the best possible chance of avoiding surgery, experiencing relief, preventing progression, and achieving a reduction, balance is a huge part of success. That’s why me and my team at the Scoliosis Reduction Center work so closely with our patients and their caregivers in designing a treatment plan that strikes that perfect balance that is both manageable and sustainable. Helping our patients find the right activity level and diet to best assist them in managing their condition helps them live their best lives throughout treatment and beyond.
My scoliosis-specific exercise regimen will differ from patient to patient depending on a number of factors such as physical fitness at the time of diagnosis, degree of curvature, level of flexibility, and mindset. Diet and exercise can hugely impact overall health and wellness, and that’s why once the larger structural issues of the curvature are tackled, my full treatment plan then widens to include diet, exercise, and overall scoliosis-friendly lifestyle tips.
Although I wish I could say I have a solid ‘fix’ for scoliosis without surgery, I can offer my patients the next best thing: an alternative treatment plan that includes multiple ways to manage their condition naturally, prevent its progression, and achieve a reduction. When paired with my patient-centered functional approach, positive diet and exercise changes can help create conditions in the body that promote healing, strength, and positive management of the condition.
Nalda, Tony. Scoliosis Hope
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