Scoliosis is a complex condition to treat because it’s progressive, incurable, and no two cases are exactly the same. There are different forms of the condition with different causes, and the condition can range between mild, moderate, severe and very severe. When it comes to scoliosis treatment, the nature of the condition necessitates a proactive and customized approach.
Just as there are different types of scoliosis a person can develop, there are also different treatment approaches that offer different outcomes. While many factors go into how a person’s scoliosis will respond to treatment, there are two main treatment options to choose between: traditional and functional.
Choosing a treatment approach to follow is important, and patients and their families have to ensure their treatment expectations are aligned with the reality of their chosen treatment approach’s outcome. Before we explore the two main scoliosis treatment approaches, let’s discuss some defining features of scoliosis, as these important condition characteristics, and the end goal of treatment, shape the treatment plans.
The spine is an integral part of human anatomy. It gives our bodies structure, facilitates movement, and allows us to remain upright. The spine is naturally curved, when viewed from the side, in a soft ‘S’ shape; when looking at a healthy spine from the front, it appears straight and runs down the center of the body’s trunk.
The spine is made up of three main sections: cervical (neck), thoracic (middle and upper back), and lumbar (lower back).
Each main section has a characteristic curvature, and these natural and healthy curves give the spine more strength, flexibility, and enable it to evenly distribute mechanical stress that’s incurred during movement.
The healthy curves are part of maintaining optimal spinal biomechanics, but what happens where there is a loss of those healthy and natural curvatures?
In a scoliotic spine, there is a loss of its healthy curves. As the spine loses its natural and healthy curves, the body responds by putting in bad curves, and this throws off the biomechanics of the spine, placing excess strain and pressure not only on the spine, but also its surroundings: muscles, vessels, and nerves.
Let’s find out how scoliosis affects the spine as it develops and progresses by touching on some important condition characteristics, as these variables will inform treatment plans moving forward.
Important condition characteristics are revealed through diagnosis and assessment, which would include a physical exam, taking the patient’s medical history, and the results of their scoliosis X-ray.
As a progressive spinal condition, a scoliosis diagnosis would indicate there is an abnormal sideways curvature to the spine that rotates and has a Cobb angle measurement of at least 10 degrees.
The Cobb angle is determined by drawing intersecting lines from the tops and bottoms of the curvature’s most-tilted vertebrae (bones of the spine), and the resulting angle is measured in degrees.
A patient’s Cobb angle tells me how far out of alignment their scoliotic spine is and places their condition on its severity scale of mild, moderate, severe, or very severe:
This information is important because it tells me how severe a condition is, and this helps guide and customize my treatment plans moving forward.
While Cobb angle is an important part of treatment plans, it’s not the only important condition characteristic. Age is also very important, particularly in the context of progression; as scoliosis is a progresssive condition, it’s in its nature to worsen over time.
Let’s talk about patient age, why it’s important, and how it informs potential treatment plans moving forward.
Patient age is an important factor not only because of the general reasons of indicating overall health and the ability to handle the rigors of scoliosis treatment, it also helps us predict a patient’s ‘likely’ rate of progression.
I say ‘likely’ because no one can determine exactly how fast, or slowly, a patient’s abnormal curvature is going to progress. However, we do know that a patient’s curvature is going to progress at some point.
While we can’t fully predict a patient’s rate of progression, we do understand the condition’s largest trigger for progression: growth.
While patients can develop scoliosis at any age, it is most commonly diagnosed as adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) in adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18; this condition form accounts for 80 percent of known diagnosed scoliosis cases, and the ‘idiopathic’ designation means there is no single-known cause that clearly accounts for the condition’s onset.
The remaining 20 percent of known diagnosed cases have known causes related to the condition form.
So in the condition’s most common form, AIS, we know this age group is in, or entering into, the stage of puberty, marked by rapid and unpredictable growth spurts. We know that this age group is at high risk of rapid-phase progression.
Specifically, in terms of treatment, we know that early detection is highly beneficial. Diagnosing scoliosis early means the option of starting proactive treatment early on in the condition’s progressive line is there, before the condition has gotten more severe.
When a condition is diagnosed and treatment is started in the mild stage of progression, there are fewer limits to what we can achieve. Smaller curvatures are less complex to treat, especially while the spine is still flexible and before the body has had time to adjust to the curvature’s presence.
In adult scoliosis, we know that progression tends to slow once skeletal maturity has been reached and the big growth trigger is removed, but adults will still progress at varying rates. Once adults pass 40 years of age, they can also become vulnerable to the degenerative effects of aging, also felt by the spine, and progression can increase as a result.
So while we know patient age is an important factor in determining a patient’s likely rate of progression, which informs the treatment plan moving forward, what are some other important condition characteristics that guide how a patient’s scoliosis is treated?
In addition to condition severity and patient age, there is also curvature location and condition form, so before we move on to the different treatment options, let’s take a look at these two additional condition characteristics that guide treatment.
As mentioned, scoliosis can develop anywhere along the spine: cervical, thoracic, and lumbar. This is another important piece of information that helps shape an effective treatment plan.
Once we know which section of the spine has developed the scoliosis and contains the most-tilted vertebrae of the curvature, we know where to concentrate our treatment efforts.
With scoliosis-specific chiropractic care, through targeted adjustments, we can work towards returning these vertebrae to where they should be: in a better alignment with the rest of the spine.
We also know that certain curvature patterns are more likely to progress than others, such as thoracic curves, so this gives us more input into how best to customize a treatment plan moving forward.
Curvature direction can also be an important treatment-related factor because typical scoliotic curves bend towards the right, away from the heart, but in certain more-complex forms, curvatures can bend to the left, towards the heart; when I see this, I know there is likely an underlying problem causing the scoliosis, and this will change the course of treatment, as the underlying cause of the scoliosis becomes the guiding force of treatment.
As part of the reason scoliosis is so often described as a complex condition is because of the many different types that can develop, let’s talk about condition form.
As previously mentioned, the most common type of scoliosis that develops is adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, accounting for 80 percent of cases. As this form is idiopathic in nature, we can’t tie its etiology to one specific cause; instead, this form is considered multifactorial, meaning caused by a combination of factors that can vary from person to person.
The remaining 20 percent are identified to have known causes, and while these are less-prevalent forms of the condition, it’s important to include them in our discussion as they warrant different types of treatment:
In cases of congenital scoliosis, infants are born with the condition because of a malformation of the vertebrae that developed in utero.
Failure of formation can happen when parts of one or more vertebrae don’t grow together as they should, making the spine unstable. When the bones of the spine fail to form properly, a hemivertebrae (a sharp angle) can develop in the spine, making it difficult for the spine to stay aligned.
The condition can also be caused by errors in segmentation, when areas of the vertebral column that normally form distinct separate segments fail to do so and become fused together.
Spinal abnormalities like these that develop in the womb can engage multiple parts of the spine and be more prevalent on one side than the other. The uneven forces of the spinal abnormalities affect both the spine and its surrounding muscles and ligaments and can lead to the development of a scoliotic curve.
The curvatures in congenital scoliosis tend to be more rigid than in idiopathic forms, and of course, age also plays a big role in determining the best course of treatment.
Most often, in these types of cases, our treatment disciplines need to be modified based on condition severity and include scoliosis-specific therapy and corrective bracing.
In neuromuscular scoliosis (NMS), we know that scoliosis develops as a secondary complication of a neuromuscular disease such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, or muscular dystrophy. Underlying medical conditions such as these can affect the neurological system, the muscular system, or both.
In these types of cases, there is a disconnect between the brain and the muscles and/or connective tissues that provide the spine with structure and support. After AIS, NMS is the second most common spinal deformity.
Although not everyone with a neuromuscular condition will automatically develop scoliosis, we do know that developing scoliosis is a common complication of a number of neurological conditions and diseases, determined partially by the amount of nerve/muscle involvement associated with a patient’s particular neuromuscular condition.
With neuromuscular scoliosis, the underlying neuromuscular condition is the primary focus of treatment. Generally speaking, due to the underlying condition further complicating scoliosis treatment, these types of cases don’t have as much potential for positive outcomes as with more common and less-complex forms of scoliosis.
Degenerative scoliosis is one of the two main forms of adult scoliosis. This most commonly affects adults over the age of 40 as the spine, along with the rest of the body, faces degenerative changes related to aging and the cumulative effect of negative lifestyle choices.
While a certain amount of spinal degeneration is to be expected with age, choices such as leading a sedentary lifestyle, not maintaining a healthy weight, poor posture, and repeatedly lifting heavy objects incorrectly can excessively strain the back and speed up degenerative changes.
In addition, the changes women go through during menopause, related to changing hormone levels and bone density, can also contribute to the onset of degenerative scoliosis.
Often, degenerative scoliosis develops because the intervertebral discs are degenerating, making it harder for the spine to maintain its natural and healthy curvatures and alignment.
When it comes to treating degenerative scoliosis, age and condition severity are important patient/condition characteristics that factor into treatment plans.
While a curvature reduction is something we work towards, in this and other forms of adult scoliosis, sometimes the treatment focuses equally on pain management and returning a curvature to where it was prior to when it started producing noticeable symptoms, like pain.
In traumatic scoliosis, the spine has experienced a trauma that has affected it adversely. This can be in the form of surgery, an accident, or another body trauma.
Tumors pressing on the spine and/or certain forms of cancer treatment (radiation) can also weaken the spine and cause it to become misaligned and twisted.
In this form of scoliosis, the cause of the trauma is what guides treatment.
So we have touched on the difference between a healthy spine and a scoliotic spine, some of the important patient/condition characteristics that help guide treatment, plus the different types of scoliosis a person can develop; now, let’s move on to the different treatment approaches available.
The two main treatment approaches available are traditional and functional, and it’s important for patients and their families to understand that these two different approaches don’t just differ in their methodologies, but also in their potential outcomes.
One of the main reasons different treatment approaches offer different outcomes is because they have different end goals, and these end goals are what drive the treatment approach.
While the traditional path of scoliosis treatment has been in place for many years, that doesn’t mean it shouldn't be questioned, improved upon, or that there aren’t other options available. Traditional scoliosis treatment generally includes the following approach: when a condition is diagnosed as mild, meaning a Cobb angle of between 10 and 25 degrees, there is no form of proactive treatment offered.
Instead, monitoring the condition for progression is the chosen response. This generally involves returning for physical exams and scoliosis X-rays, at regular intervals, to determine if the mild curvature has progressed, and at what rate.
Every case is different, but the intervals between X-rays tend to be every 3 to 12 months, depending on the practitioner. Now, if you think back to the condition’s most common form (AIS) and recall that this group includes adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18, you can likely see the big challenge here: growth and progression.
As the stage of puberty is marked by unpredictable and rapid growth spurts, this age group is at high risk of rapid-phase progression. The possibility is strong that during one of these intervals between X-rays, they will have a big growth spurt, and their condition can progress rapidly as a result.
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of benefits to starting proactive treatment early, in terms of getting the best potential results, but as an abnormal spinal curvature increases in size, it becomes more complex to treat, the spine becomes more rigid, and the body gets more adjusted to its presence.
Once a condition progresses into the moderate stage, those following the traditional treatment path might be told that bracing is a good option, and while bracing can be an effective treatment option, but not all braces are created equal.
Prior to moving into the severe and very-severe stage of scoliosis progression, the only form of active treatment the traditional approach offers is bracing, most commonly with the Boston brace. Other traditional braces include the Charleston and Milwaukee brace.
Now, as mentioned, a brace’s end goal is important; it’s important because it’s what its design is based on and determines how treatment is applied.
When it comes to the Boston brace, the end goal is not ‘correction’, but rather stopping/slowing progression, and this is an important distinction to understand.
As the Boston brace was not designed with correction in mind, it’s more about ‘squeezing’ the spine in a corrective position, but not actually correcting the abnormal curvature, and this can actually weaken the spine over time.
The Boston brace, and other traditional braces like it, treat scoliosis as a 2-dimensional condition, but as we know that it doesn’t just bend to the side, but also rotates, we know that scoliosis is, in fact, a 3-dimensional condition and needs to be treated as such.
The Boston brace is made out of hard plastic and is a type of body jacket that’s commonly used for treating AIS. Also referred to as a thoraco-lumbo-sacral orthosis (TLSO) brace, it wraps around the trunk tightly under the arms, around the rib cage, lower back, and hips.
The idea behind the Boston brace, and others like it, is to squeeze or compress the abnormal spinal curvature in a way that holds the spine in place and prevents further progression; it does this by applying pressure, through specially-placed pads, to specific points along the curvature, and a relief area is placed opposite the pads, essentially squeezing the spine in what’s known as a ‘three-point pressure system’.
The Boston brace is typically prescribed for patients in the moderate stage of progression, meaning with a Cobb angle measurement of between 25 and 40 degrees, and generally needs to be worn full time, for 18 to 23 hours a day, for up to five years, in order to stop further progression.
As you can imagine, compliance is a big challenge, especially when you’re talking about AIS and trying to get teenagers to wear the brace full time, despite the fact that it’s uncomfortable and sets them apart from their peers.
The Boston brace is mass-produced, meaning it isn’t customized to suit each individual patient’s body and condition.
Following are some of the problems associated with traditional scoliosis braces:
While the Boston brace is the most commonly used TLSO brace in the United States, again, that doesn’t mean it's design shouldn’t evolve along with our understanding of the condition, and there are other bracing options available that favor the end goal of correction and function, rather than merely squeezing the spine to stop progression.
While managing progression is an important aspect of effective scoliosis treatment plans, how that goal is reached is important because if curvature size is valued over function, this means the spine might be straighter, but it won’t perform as well, and this can impact patients’ overall quality of life.
As we have touched on the fact that bracing is the only proactive form of treatment offered by the traditional scoliosis treatment approach, prior to reaching the surgical level threshold, what does that mean for the patient?
Let’s talk about scoliosis surgery and how the traditional approach tends to funnel patients in that direction.
So let’s say a patient traversing the traditional path of scoliosis treatment has continued progressing, despite the use of a Boston brace.
Once a patient crosses that surgical threshold, which is partially case-dependent, but generally happens once a condition is deemed severe with Cobb angle measurements of over 40 degrees, spinal fusion can be recommended as the best option.
The choice of whether or not to undergo any surgical procedure should not be taken lightly, as even minor surgeries come with their share of risks, and spinal fusion is no exception.
Spinal fusion is a costly, lengthy, and invasive procedure. Its results are permanent: there is no unfusing a fused spine. In addition, it can come with some pretty severe risks and potential side effects, not to mention the fact that we simply don’t know the long-term effects of living with hardware in the back 20, 30, 40+ years down the road.
So what exactly happens to the spine during spinal fusion, and what is the surgery's end goal? Let’s explore the answers to these important questions.
Spinal-Fusion Surgery: Procedure and End Goal
Now that we have discussed the road that leads to spinal fusion, watching and waiting until a condition progresses past that surgical-level threshold, let’s talk about what happens during the procedure itself, as well as what the end goal of scoliosis surgery is.
While there are different types of scoliosis surgery, generally, spinal fusion involves fusing the most-tilted vertebrae of the curvature together to form one solid bone; this prevents movement and growth in the area, preventing the curve from progressing. However, it’s important to understand that no scoliosis surgery comes with a guarantee that it will do so, and continued progression is a possibility.
The other thing to consider is that as a section of the spine is fused, eliminating movement, this costs the spine in terms of function and flexibility.
Scoliosis surgery uses a form of bone material, called a bone graft, to help facilitate the fusion. Small pieces of bone are inserted in between the vertebrae that are being fused so the bones grow together in a similar way to how broken bones heal.
Then metal rods are attached to the spine with screws, hooks, or wires to hold the spine in place while the fusion site heals.
How large the fused section is will depend on condition severity, the amount of flexibility in the patient’s spine, and the location of the curvature.
While some people, especially those whose fusion involves fewer vertebrae, find the flexibility they are left with above and below the fusion site provides enough mobility, others find that the loss of spinal flexibility is significant and causes mobility issues.
Considering the goal of spinal fusion is to stop the curvature from progressing, we have to understand that this is not the same as ‘correcting’ the abnormal curvature on a structural level.
The rods are holding the fused spine in a corrective position, rather than actually correcting the curvature so it can support and stabilize itself.
As we’ve talked about the procedure itself, let’s now take a look at some of the potential risks and side effects of spinal fusion.
Risks and Side Effects of Scoliosis Surgery
We’ve touched on one of the main disappointments that patients who have had spinal fusion experience: a loss of flexibility. In addition, some patients are disappointed with their pain levels post surgery, as many report increased levels of pain after spinal fusion.
Often, pain is focused around the fusion site, and as there is that loss of movement and spinal flexibility in the fused section, this can make the muscles surrounding the area tight and strained, leading to more muscle and/or general back pain.
One of the main reasons people opt for spinal fusion is cosmetic, and those who go into surgery expecting a full return of their pre-scoliosis bodies can be disappointed.
Scoliosis surgery focuses on the spine, and sometimes related postural changes, such as uneven hips and/or shoulders aren’t fully reversed by the procedure. While it can take time for the spine and the body in general to settle after surgery, many patients are disappointed that the overall symmetry of their body is still off, despite having a straighter spine.
As mentioned, there are different types of scoliosis surgery, and any surgical procedure comes with risks. As the spine works in tandem with the brain to form the body’s central nervous system, any spinal condition, or procedure performed on the spine, has the potential to cause numerous changes throughout the body.
In addition, there simply isn’t enough long-term data on the effects of living with rods attached to the spine, as well as how long that hardware remains optimal before starting to degenerate.
If hardware malfunctions, or outlives its lifespan, or if a patient has an adverse reaction to the presence of these foreign elements inside the body, there is little recourse other than subsequent surgeries, and facing those associated risks all over again.
Also, as is the case with most surgical procedures, risks and potential side effects tend to increase with age. While surgeons have their patients’ best interests at heart, things can go wrong during, or after, the procedure itself.
Following are some risks associated with the procedure itself:
Following are some side effects associated with life post-surgery:
As you now know, scoliosis surgery is not without its risks, and as its end goal is to stop progression, rather than actually correct the abnormal spinal curvature through more-natural means, the cost of a straighter spine delivered via spinal fusion can be functional.
Now that we have explored the traditional approach to treating scoliosis including watching and waiting, traditional scoliosis bracing, and scoliosis surgery, let’s move on to the functional chiropractic-centered approach we offer our patients here at the Scoliosis Reduction Center.
Here at the Scoliosis Reduction Center, I offer my patients an integrative and functional chiropractic-centered approach. I believe that the very nature of scoliosis necessitates an integrative approach that combines multiple treatment disciplines; that way, we can fully customize each and every treatment plan to address the needs of the patient and their particular condition.
Patients deserve the benefits that different treatment disciplines can offer, but for many, it’s not accessible to have to drive to multiple locations to access these different treatment modalities. That’s why I opened up the Center so patients can conveniently access different forms of treatment under one roof.
All of the disciplines we offer are scoliosis-specific: chiropractic care, in-office therapy, custom-prescribed home exercises, and specialized corrective bracing.
We work closely with our patients to engage them in the treatment process, and most importantly, our approach is proactive. As soon as scoliosis is diagnosed, or as soon as a patient comes to us with a diagnosis, we act; we don’t watch and wait while a condition progresses in severity and treatment becomes more complex.
While monitoring and managing progression is an important part of every treatment plan, it’s not our ultimate end goal: function and correction is.
It’s not enough for us to solely reduce a curvature; we want to preserve its function as I believe this offers our patients the best possible quality of life moving forward.
Through an integrative approach, we can fully customize treatment plans to address the specifics of each patient and their condition, which is why I’ve never used the same treatment plan twice.
As we move through treatment, we monitor the spine via X-ray to see how it is responding to treatment, and then we adjust the plan as necessary by apportioning the treatment disciplines accordingly.
I know our approach works because I have the privilege of seeing results every day. Once a patient sees those first positive results, the motivation is strong to continue moving forward, and with commitment and hard work, we can achieve amazing results, without the heavy risks and side effects that can accompany spinal-fusion surgery.
We don’t want to just hold the spine in place through artificial means; we rely on a more natural and functional approach that strengthens the spine, and its surrounding muscles, so it can support and stabilize itself.
Through working towards a curvature reduction and strengthening the spine, it becomes more able to resist the force of progression.
Let’s now take some time to explore the details of the scoliosis-specific treatment disciplines we offer here at the Center.
While traditional and general chiropractic has mixed results in scoliosis treatment, scoliosis-specific chiropractic care can be highly effective.
Applying more advanced and scoliosis-specific chiropractic techniques can help manipulate the spine into a healthier and more-natural alignment. Through a process of targeted adjustments, we can help manipulate the curvature’s most-tilted vertebrae back into a better position, in line with the rest of the spine; by doing this, we are restoring as much of the spine’s healthy curves as possible.
As the spine’s healthy curvatures are restored, the overall biomechanics of the spine are improved upon, lessening related symptoms such as postural changes and pain, caused by the uneven forces of the abnormal spinal curvature.
As a scoliosis chiropractor, I know the spine, and I know scoliosis, and when these two understandings meet and are applied in the form of proactive treatment, amazing results can be achieved.
Our scoliosis-specific in-office therapy works to passively mobilize the spine into a corrective position. This aspect of treatment can include traction and de-rotation, and vibration.
Here at the Center, we have state-of-the-art equipment designed specifically to reduce scoliosis, such as the scoliosis traction chair, designed to reverse a scoliotic curve into a mirror image of itself.
We have access to multiple treatment devices such as a scoliosis flexion distraction table, a thoracic mechanical drop piece, and vibrating cervical traction.
While relying solely on one of these forms of therapy would have limited results, when used in conjunction with other treatment disciplines for an integrative approach, they can complement each other by working towards the same goal.
While there was a time when the place of exercises in scoliosis treatment was questioned, we now know that scoliosis-specific exercises play an integral role in strengthening the spine and increasing core strength, making the spine’s surrounding muscles better equipped at supporting and stabilizing it.
These types of exercises are self-correcting and are customized to each patient based on ability, spinal flexibility, curvature type, and severity.
These exercises are active and movement-based and can include isometric and reflexive exercises. I am also certified in SEAS (scientific exercise approach to scoliosis), based on a highly specialized and active self-correction technique to restore function.
SEAS exercises work by training neuromotor function to stimulate a reflexive response that self-corrects posture while performing daily tasks.
As a CLEAR Scoliosis Institute-certified doctor, I also utilize the CLEAR scoliosis-specific exercise program which involves using customized scoliosis-specific exercises to influence balance, posture, and coordination.
As mentioned earlier, while there are numerous scoliosis braces available, not all are created equal, so next, we’ll look at the ScoliBrace: an ultra-corrective specialized brace we use at the Center.
There is a huge difference between the types of braces, like the Boston brace, that are used in the traditional approach that we discussed earlier, and the ScoliBrace that we use here at the Center; again, end goal plays a huge role in the distinction.
As the end goal of the ScoliBrace is not to stop progression, but to actually correct the abnormal curvature, this can help achieve a curvature reduction while preserving the overall health and function of the spine.
Corrective bracing is designed to work towards reducing an abnormal spinal curvature while the brace is being worn. Corrective braces, like the ScoliBrace are custom manufactured to suit the patient’s body type, curvature type, and level of spinal flexibility.
Using BraceScan (3D imaging software), the patient is scanned so the brace is fully bespoke to its wearer, making it more comfortable and improving the chances of compliance.
As scoliosis is a 3-dimensional condition that involves both a bending and rotational component, for bracing to be fully effective, it has to account for the condition’s 3-dimensional nature.
Traditional braces don’t address the condition’s rotational component as they are only designed to squeeze the body from the sides, which can actually increase the rotational component while it works at controlling the curve’s sideways bend.
As you can see, design is very important when it comes to the effectiveness of scoliosis bracing, and design is based on the end goal. While traditional bracing focuses on stopping progression, the ScoliBrace represents the culmination of what we have learned about the condition and bracing as a form of treatment over the years.
When used in conjunction with other forms of proactive scoliosis-specific treatment like chiropractic care, in-office therapy, and custom-prescribed home exercises, corrective bracing can help achieve amazing results that not only reduce the curve, but also preserve the spine’s overall health and function.
Now, let’s say a few general words about scoliosis treatment for children and scoliosis treatment for adults.
When it comes to treatment by age, the goals can be similar, but how they are achieved can vary and require some modification. In general, we want to reduce the scoliosis, prevent further progression, improve function and reduce pain (although rare in children), and provide long-term stabilization for the spine.
Although there is no way to determine exactly how large a curvature will become in the future, once a curve exceeds 25 degrees, the tendency is that it will continue to progress, especially if left untreated.
This is why proactive treatment started when the curve is small is almost always the right choice.
When it comes to scoliosis treatment for infants, between 0 and 3 years of age, there are unique challenges that require aspects of treatment to be modified.
With infants, we generally use the type of treatment plans designed for children and teens, but with modified scoliosis-specific therapy and/or correcting bracing, and condition severity plays a large role in designing treatment plans.
With children between the ages of 3 and 10, we can generally make the biggest long-term impact on scoliosis; this is because the condition has been diagnosed prior to the first pubescent growth spurt.
This is also the time that many parents, following the traditional approach, are told that watching and waiting is the best choice.
Based on curvature size and skeletal maturity, all of our treatment disciplines can be applied at this age to stop progression, reduce the scoliosis, and prevent the need for invasive treatments down the road.
As we have discussed throughout the article, the teenage years are when the most scoliosis cases are diagnosed in the form of AIS. This is because the age group of 10 -18 face rapid-phase progression due to growth spurts associated with puberty.
Since curvatures can progress rapidly during this stage, treatment options have to be fully customized to the patient. Teenagers are also ideal for benefiting from all of the treatment disciplines offered at the Center, and we use every tool we have to work towards getting them through this highly-progressive stage of scoliosis.
We want to prevent further progression and improve the likelihood that patients won’t have to face the hardships associated with increasing condition severity and related symptoms; we also want to do everything we can to help them avoid reaching that point where surgery is considered as a necessary option.
This is the time to be proactive and start active treatment; this is not the time to watch and wait and waste valuable treatment time.
When most people think of scoliosis, they think of children and teenagers, but adults can develop the condition as well.
The two most common forms of scoliosis that adults develop are idiopathic and degenerative. Adults with idiopathic scoliosis are cases of AIS that went undiagnosed and progressed into maturity. It’s not uncommon that scoliosis goes unnoticed during adolescence when it starts out as mild, doesn’t produce noticeable postural changes, and isn’t generally painful.
As previously discussed, degenerative scoliosis most commonly develops in older adults who are facing spinal degeneration.
As adults with scoliosis have reached skeletal maturity, they are generally not rapidly progressing. Most adults find out they have scoliosis because of pain, and pain is a common result of untreated scoliosis because a misaligned spine is less healthy and more prone to degenerative changes that can lead to further progression over time.
In traditional treatment, pain relief through medication or scoliosis surgery are the options; with our functional chiropractic-centered approach, as adult scoliosis is not progressing rapidly, we can use our treatment disciplines to achieve reductions and reduce pain and related symptoms simultaneously.
By reducing a curvature back to where it was before it started producing noticeable symptoms like pain, we can help adults with scoliosis preserve spinal function, avoid surgery, and improve their overall quality of life.
Often, home exercises are a big part of treatment for adults as it can help counteract the condition’s progressive nature and protect the spine from further deterioration.
Elderly adults living with scoliosis are often living with a lot of limitations, and the older a patient gets, the riskier invasive treatment options, like surgery, become.
As we customize our treatment plans fully to address patient and condition characteristics, our treatment options can help these patients by working towards a more functional spine to reduce limitations.
If limitations are quite severe by the time an edlerly patient comes to us for help, we create a modified program, based on their ability, to optimize treatment results, as we do with every treatment plan to address the unique needs of each patient and their condition.
When it comes to scoliosis treatment, what I want patients to understand is that they have options.
Based on what we have learned about the condition over the years, we know how important proactive treatment is and how effective it can be when started early on in the condition’s progessive line.
While those following the traditional treatment approach spend a lot of time passively observing their condition, this can end up funneling patients towards spinal-fusion surgery, and we know that like any surgical procedure, this comes with a lot of potential risks and side effects. Its outcome is also governed by its end goal of preventing further progression, but isn’t focused on preserving the spine’s overall health and function.
In addition, the only form of proactive treatment offered by the traditional approach, scoliosis bracing, relies on traditional braces that haven’t evolved along with our understanding of the condition.
When it comes to the functional chiropractic-centered treatment approach we offer patients here at the Center, there are fewer limits to what we can achieve; this is because we believe in proactive treatment started as close to the time of diagnosis as possible, and our patients have access to the benefits of multiple treatment disciplines for a fully-customized and integrative approach.
Through our combination of scoliosis-specific chiropractic care, in-office therapy, custom-prescribed home exercises, and specialized corrective bracing, we can help patients of all ages avoid the hardships associated with the condition’s later stages of progression and invasive surgery.
If you or a loved one has been recently diagnosed, now is the time to act. If you are unsure of your treatment options moving forward, don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at the Scoliosis Reduction Center to ensure you have been presented with all your treatment options and can make a fully-informed treatment choice.